By Sean McAdam
BOSTON -- Victor Martinez returned to Fenway Park Wednesday, inviting the usual questions about whether the Red Sox did the right thing in allowing him to leave as a free agent last offseason.
Then, as if on cue, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, his replacement as the team's No. 1 catcher, made his case with a Wall-scraping, run-scoring double in the bottom of the eighth, giving the Red Sox a 1-0 shutout of the Detroit Tigers.
Saltalamachia's double scored Carl Crawford (walk) from first and snapped a scoreless tie in a game that featured a 26-minute rain delay in the top of the eighth inning.
Clay Buchholz threw a career-high 127 pitches, allowing just four hits, but was left with a no-decision. Daniel Bard, who pitched the eighth, got the win with Jonathan Papelbon nailing down his eight save.
Papelbon allowed a leadoff double to Martinez, putting the potential tying run in scoring postition with no out. But Papelbon got Jhonny Peralta to groundout and he struck out Alex Avila and Ryan Rayburn to end the game.
The win was Boston's fifth in a row -- tying a season high -- and eighth victory in the last 10 games. The Sox are two games over .500 for the first time all season.
The Red Sox could mount little against Detroit starter Phil Coke, who limited them to just three hits over the first seven innings.
Player of the Game: Jarrod Saltalamacchia
The return of Victor Martinez to Fenway Park in an opponent's uniform put the focus squarely on Saltalamacchia and comparing the two players' numbers didn't reflect well on the Red Sox catcher.
But in the eighth inning, with the game scoreless, Saltalamacchia drilled a double off The Wall in left-center, scoring Carl Crawford all the way from first base.
Saltalamacchia may only be hitting .221 with just 10 RBI, but he's been having far better at-bats in the last two weeks and his confidence at the plate seems to be growing daily.
Honorable Mention: Clay Buchholz
Buchholz didn't get the win in the end, but he blanked the Tigers over seven innings, turning in the 11th scoreless outing by a Red Sox starter this year.
Terry Francona showed what kind of trust he has in Buchholz by leaving him out for a career-high 127 pitches. The last one was a swinging strike against Austin Jackson, giving Buchholz a season-high seven strikeouts.
The Goat: Glen Schlereth
Detroit manager Jim Leyland went to Schlereth with two out in the eighth and the lefty promptly walked Carl Crawford, then gave up Saltalamacchia's wall-scraping, game-winning double.
Turning Point: Papelbon shuts the door
While Saltalamacchia's run-scoring hit accounted for the only run of the game, this one wasn't locked down until Jonathan Papelbon struck out Alex Avila and Ryan Rayburn with the potential tying run on third base in the top of the ninth inning.
By the Numbers: 10
Saltalamacchia has just 10 RBI, but five of those have come in close-and-late situations -- i.e., the seventh inning or later with the Sox either ahead by a run, tied or with the tying run on base, at the plate or on deck.
Quote of Note:
"We certainly didn't bludgeon them to death (four hits) tonight, but Salty took a terrific swing.'' -- Terry Francona
--Red Sox manager Terry Francona