DETROIT -- The obstacles were there for the Red Sox every day on this seven-day road trip through Texas and Detroit. From injuries and illnesses to various players, to the simultaneous slumps of All-Star mashers Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz, this was a journey that could only be successful with plenty of grinding and pitching.
The Sox got the perfect mix of both, and that's why they managed to find their way home with a 5-2 record on the journey. This, after scratching out a tense 2-1 victory over the Tigers on Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park.
Bronson Arroyo pitched a gem for the Sox, firing a no-hitter for 6 1/3 innings and allowing three hits and one run over eight innings. He walked two and struck out eight, throwing 113 pitches in his finest performance of the season.
As good as Arroyo was, it nearly wasn't enough for a win. But with two outs and nobody on in the top of the ninth, Trot Nixon (4-for-5) blooped a single into center. That set up the slumping Ortiz, who bashed a clutch RBI double to right-center off Ugueth Urbina, snapping a 1-1 tie.
"I was just praying to get a hit, man. I haven't got a hit in a long time," said Ortiz. "It's been tough up there, man. My part in the game is hitting. If I don't hit, it's like I'm just stealing money."
Instead, Ortiz was money, putting Arroyo in position for the win and setting up closer Keith Foulke for his seventh save of the season, and third in as many days.
When they departed Fenway Park for Texas, the Sox were a perfectly mediocre 11-10. They come back at 16-12, and feeling as if they might have rediscovered themselves.
"I'm very proud of what we did this trip," said Sox manager Terry Francona. "The trip is over now. ... I don't like being banged up, but to me, our dugout was back to being more of our dugout. There wasn't a lot of guys in there, because they're all in the training room. But the enthusiasm, the coming together, sometimes those things help. We were going to find a way to win and we did."
Reason No. 1 was Arroyo, who was dazzling right from the outset, running his record to 4-0 and lowering his ERA to 3.18. His no-hit bid was broken with one out in the top of the seventh when Carlos Guillen lofted a solo homer to right. On that same pitch, Arroyo lost his 1-0 lead. Dmitri Young followed with a single to right, but Arroyo settled down and got the next two hitters.
"Bronson's been pretty awesome all year," said Sox center fielder Johnny Damon. "He could be our No. 1. He's been throwing well. On any other team he's a No. 1. Right now he actually might be ours. He's been pretty incredible lately."
The same could not be said for the man known as Big Papi, who has had trouble finding the stroke that was so prolific the last two seasons. But if you give Ortiz enough chances, he's going to cash in.
"We hit some balls the last couple of days really well and had nothing to show for it," said Francona. "David, it was low enough where it didn't hang up there, and it wasn't high enough where it bounces over. He did what he's supposed to do."
Trot Nixon / RF
Weight: 210 lbs
Bats: L / Throws: L
Ortiz was set up by the most innocent-looking hit from Nixon, who dropped one just in front of center fielder Nook Logan. For Nixon, it was a sweet return from a two-game suspension.
"I didn't scald the ball the whole time, but I'll take those four hits any time," Nixon said. "The big thing for me is to get on base with the big boys behind me. The gaps are huge here, so you have a chance to score."
That was a tough task for both sides all day. Not to be overshadowed by Arroyo was a strong pitching performance by Tigers right-hander Jason Johnson. He induced several weak swings from the Sox, and Kevin Millar, who broke his bat in his first three at-bats, seemed particularly perplexed.
"He just had big time movement on his sinker," said Millar. "Jason Johnson has always had good stuff. He threw a good game, too. We just found a way."
In a game where every scoring opportunity was precious, the Sox forged one across in the top of the second. Jason Varitek led off with a double to center. Edgar Renteria tried to bunt him over, but instead caught the pitch on his right index finger and had to be removed from the game. X-rays were negative. No matter though, as Ramon Vazquez came off the bench and ripped a single up the middle for the first run of the game.
Bronson Arroyo / P
Weight: 190 lbs
Bats: R / Throws: R
For a while, that seemed to be all Arroyo would need. He breezed over the first six innings, as a walk to Marcus Thames in the second was his only blemish during that span.
After throwing a perfect game for Triple-A Pawtucket on Aug. 10, 2003, Arroyo had visions of his first Major League no-hitter. And you could hardly blame him when Millar and Jay Payton made back-to-back solid plays on defense in the fifth.
"Oh yeah, it crept in my mind after the sixth inning for sure," said Arroyo. "Any time you can look at the board and see that you've only got to go three more innings, you have an opportunity to maybe face only nine more guys and throw a no-hitter, if anybody says they've been out on the mound and they didn't know that was going on, I think they're lying."
But after Guillen ended the fun and the Sox suddenly found themselves in a tie, there was urgency to scratch out the win.
"Big win, big road trip," Millar said. "The way we're swinging the bats right now, to go 5-2, that's big."
"We've had a lot of people sick, a lot of people in and out of the lineup, a lot of people battling different things," Varitek said. "But you're going to win more games when you pitch."
Ian Browne is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.