Sweeney busy in Red Sox debut

Sweeney busy in Red Sox debut
April 6, 2012, 1:59 am
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DETROIT -- It seemed no matter what he did, Ryan Sweeney was in the middle of most of the action Thursday as he made his regular season debut in a Red Sox uniform.

In his second at-bat in the fifth inning, Sweeney singled to left off Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander.

As it turned out, that would be the last hit the Red Sox mustered off last year's Cy Young Award-winner and American League MVP.

"He's a tough pitcher," said Sweeney of Verlander. "He nibbles and he gets good pitches and he gets you to chase stuff and he's a tough pitcher to face."

In the top of the eighth, with Tigers clinging to a 1-0 lead, Austin Jackson drove a ball to deep right and Sweeney, who has a reputation as a plus defender, seemed to turn the wrong way as he went back on the ball.

"It was a hard-hit ball," said Sweeney, "and I took a drop step back. It kind of tailed on me, so I had to turn back around. It was out of my reach and I just couldn't get it."

At the time, right field was bathed in some shadows, but Sweeney said the contrast of light and shadows wasn't an issue.

"It's hard to explain, but some of the balls were doing weird stuff out there today," said Sweeney. "I don't know if it was because of the wind or what."

Jackson later came around to score a run for Detroit, giving the Tigers a 2-0 lead heading into the ninth.

The Tigers then turned to closer Jose Valverde, who was a perfect 49-for-49 in save opportunities last season.

But the Sox chipped away against Valverde, getting an opposite-field leadoff double, a single from Adrian Gonzalez which sent Pedroia to third and a sacrifice fly from David Ortiz, which netted the Sox a run.

A stolen base by pinch-runner Darnell McDonald gave the Sox a baserunner in scoring position and Sweeney delivered him when he laced a triple into the right field corner.

"He fell behind 2-and-0 and then he threw me an elevated fastball and missed that," said Sweeney of Valverde. "Then he threw me a split-finger down-and-in and I put a good swing on it.

"I thought I got (enough of it to hit it out) at first when I hit it, but it hit off the wall and got away from (defensive replacement Don Kelly)."

That tied the game and handed Valverde his first blown save since September 2, 2010.

"That was huge and it just goes to show that we're not going to give up," said Sweeney. "To (come back) against Valverde, that's a huge accomplishment right there. But we just didn't score enough runs today."