Detroit's troubles weren't confined to bullpen utilities; its whole line of succession was gummed up in this match between division leaders, as the Red Sox put on a clinic in the art of deconstructing opposing pitching staffs.
"They really made our pitchers pitch," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said following a 7-1 thumping by the Sox.
Detroit starter Nate Robertson did not walk a batter in five innings, yet he somehow threw 115 pitches, 75 of them for strikes. At every turn, Boston hitters were working 2-2, 3-1 and 3-2 counts, finishing, as Jason Varitek did in the fourth, with an all-wrists double down the line, or, as Coco Crisp did a batter later, with a ninth-pitch RBI single to center.
"Those were some real good, professional, long grinding-out at-bats," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said.
Robertson came out of the game after five frames, allowing 11 hits and three runs. Boston wreaked its real damage, however, in the way that it forced two innings of work on Detroit callup Tim Byrdak, and 36 pitches out of dependable lefty Bobby Seay.
"That's just guys working counts, trying to get pitches to hit," said Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia, who, in addition to flying around the diamond making defensive highlights, added two of Boston's 15 hits.
It wasn't just what the Sox accomplished, either -- it was how they did it. Seven Red Sox had multi-hit games. Five drove in runs. Six scored. If baseball counted time of possession, Boston would have won that battle without trouble.
"We've got everyone hitting on all cylinders," first baseman Kevin Youkilis said. "That just shows what this team can do. For us, it's great when all of our guys are hitting through the order."
Now, for the rest of a four-game series the Tigers, the Red Sox will benefit from a man advantage, of sorts. In the ninth, Matsuzaka wrapped up a masterwork of quiet efficiency: a complete game on 124 pitches, 86 of them strikes, and 16 groundball outs. He walked zero Tigers.
And so Boston will be stocked with two more rested arms than Detroit on Tuesday. As the Red Sox well know, the cruel realities of 162-game baseball place a premium on such advantages.
"We're not going to feel bad for teams that have their bullpens worked up, because it happened to us last year," said Lowell, remembering a 22-35 finish for the Red Sox in August and September 2006.
For the Tigers, staying atop a difficult American League Central in 2007 will take more than beating the Matsuzakas of baseball, a hard enough task. It will require avoiding that bullpen phone.
Alex McPhillips is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less