Motor City long balls

Motor City long balls

DETROIT -- The way Matt Clement had been pitching of late, the Red Sox weren't expecting or demanding a masterpiece from the veteran right-hander on Sunday afternoon. They just wanted a stable performance, and perhaps a glimpse of the guy who began the 2005 season with a 10-2 record en route to his first All-Star appearance.

That desire was granted with Clement pitching effectively enough, putting both himself and his team in the win column in this 8-3 conquest of the Tigers in the rubber match of a three-game series.

Clement, who broke out strong and faltered a bit at the end, went six innings and allowed three hits and three runs to earn his fourth quality start of the season. Zach Miner, making his Major League debut, took the loss, giving up seven hits and three runs over four-plus innings.

What did Clement do in between starts after being pounded for 14 runs and 16 hits over his two previous outings? The same thing most pitchers do when they're in crisis mode. He dissected video of some of his best games -- particularly from his time with the Cubs -- worked on his mechanics and did extra side work.

"I got a little bit out of sorts, I guess, over the last year and a half, to the point where, I guess, it hit a head and was really working negatively for me," said Clement. "I was pleased with the way the ball came out of my hand."

The offense also did its part, with Alex Gonzalez, Kevin Youkilis, David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez all going deep.

The Red Sox are now 3-3 on this 10-game road trip entering the final leg, a four-game showdown against the Yankees in the Bronx.

That short flight to New York became a happier one thanks to a getaway victory against the team with the best record (37-20) in the Major Leagues.

"We want to win every series. You don't have to sweep a series, but you want to win a series," said Youkilis, who started at third base in this one. "We lost [a tough game Saturday]. We just came back today and just swung the bats well and played good D and had, overall, a good performance from everybody. And we're just glad to get out of here with two games from the leading team in the Central."

And central to the victory was Clement, who came in to this start with confidence, and this time had it rewarded.

"I felt it from all the work I did in between that things were going to be different, but I've taken that attitude out the last couple of starts and they weren't," said Clement.

Despite the rejuvenation, Clement still had a chance to let things unravel, but he buckled down. The Tigers scored two runs in the sixth and trimmed the deficit to 4-3, and Clement was staring at runners at the corners with two outs and Craig Monroe at the plate.

This was basically the at-bat that was going to determine whether this was a step forward, sideways or backward for Clement. It worked in his favor, as Clement induced Monroe into a grounder to third to end the inning.

"It was big," said Clement. "Who knows how that game would have turned if he gets a hit there or they tie it or get ahead. I'm just trying to battle through and get back to pitching games I'm used to pitching, not games I'm getting beat up early."

Clement, who started to feel a little fatigued, went back out for the seventh inning. But three pitches into the frame, catcher Jason Varitek essentially gave his pitcher the hook, signaling to manager Terry Francona in the dugout.

Francona and trainer Paul Lessard heeded the catcher's words, and trotted out to the mound. Clement, obviously cooked, handed the ball to his manager without saying much of anything. His job was done.

"[Varitek] could just tell I was fatigued," Clement said. "It was smart. I just didn't want another medical visit, because I was sick of them."

Though 96 pitches typically isn't that much for Clement, the circumstances were different this time around.

"If anything, I did a lot more throwing [between starts], which is probably why I kind of tuckered out at the end of the game," Clement said. "When you make a couple of changes, major or minor, you want to go through it enough where it feels comfortable so you're not having to think about it while you're out there."

Clement didn't want to get too specific about the adjustments he made, but one thing he did mention is that he tightened up his delivery.

"You'll be able to see it if you watch the video, I guess," Clement said. "Just a couple of things I wanted to do to get myself back to the way I'm most effective."

The Red Sox aided Clement's cause by packing a pretty fair wallop.

The first boost of power came from Gonzalez in the top of the second, as the shortstop clubbed a two-run shot over the wall in left-center against Miner to make it 2-0.

Youkilis and Ortiz led off the fifth with back-to-back shots to give the Red Sox a 4-1 lead. It was the fourth time the Red Sox have clubbed consecutive homers this season.

Given how many home runs Ortiz has hammered since landing with the Red Sox, he normally doesn't surprise himself. But after hitting a 425-foot out on Friday, this one was a feat in Ortiz's mind.

"You can crush the ball and you're not going to get it out of here," Ortiz said. "I thought I had no chance to hit a ball out of here. It has to be like 480 to left-center."

Ramirez ripped a solo shot to right in the seventh to open the lead to 5-3, and a serious bout of wildness by Tigers reliever Jason Grilli in the eighth (three walks, no batters retired) allowed Boston to break it open.

"I expect that every time I pitch," Clement said. "That's a great part about this team. They can do the job. It doesn't matter who it is. They hit a lot of home runs in a ballpark that's not easy to hit home runs in. That obviously made it a little easier for me."

Ian Browne is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.