Red Sox lose opener to Tigers, 3-2

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Red Sox lose opener to Tigers, 3-2

DETROIT -- On the first day of the 2012 season, Justin Verlander picked up right where he left off in 2011.
So did the Red Sox.
The Tigers' right-hander -- the 2011 A.L. MVP and Cy Young Award winner -- shut out the Sox on two hits over eight innings and seemed headed for victory when he handed a 2-0 lead to closer Jose Valverde . . . who converted all 49 of his save opportunities last year.
The Red Sox, losers of 20 of their last 27 in the final month of last season, rallied for two runs off Valverde and tied the score. But -- like they did so often last September -- they flubbed away the chance for a stirring victory when the bullpen tag team of Mark Melancon and Alfredo Aceves gave up the winning run and the Sox dropped their opener, 3-2, Thursday afternoon ay Comerica Park.
Trailing 2-0, Dustin Pedroia led off the ninth with a double to right and moved to third on a single by Adrian Gonzalez. David Ortiz drove him home with a sacrifice fly, making it 2-1.
Valverde seemed poised to close it out when he struck out Kevin Youkilis. But pinch-runner Darnell McDonald stole second and came home on a game-trying triple into the right-field corner by Ryan Sweeney.
Melancon, however, set the stage by allowing one-out singles to Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila. Manager Bobby Valentine called on Aceves, who hit Ramon Santiago to load the bases. And Austin Jackson then shot a hot grounder down the third-base line past Nick Punto for the game-winning hit.
Only once did the Sox manage to get two runners on base in the same inning against Verlander. But he struck out Ortiz with Pedroia on second and Gonzalez on first to end the sixth.
Jon Lester matched Verlander nearly pitch for pitch, but finally blinked in the seventh. With two outs and nobody on, he allowed back-to-back doubles to Peralta and Avila, pushing across the game's first run.
Detroit made it 2-0 in the eighth off Vicente Padilla on a sacrifice fly by Prince Fielder.

Drellich: Devers is a keeper, even with the addition of Nunez

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Drellich: Devers is a keeper, even with the addition of Nunez

BOSTON -- The cherub stays.

There's no way Rafael Devers is headed back to Triple-A before the homestand starts Friday, right, Dave Dombrowski? Not for the newly acquired Eduardo Nunez, who's a fine player but has nowhere near the offensive upside of Devers, the 20-year-old phenom you just rushed to the big leagues.

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You probably weren't really considering sending Devers straight back, were you now, Dave? Sometime in the 3 o'clock hour Eastern time on Wednesday morning (after a 13-inning, 6-5 loss to the Mariners), you did tell reporters in Seattle that you would need to sit down with manager John Farrell to figure out the plan at third base from here.

Likely, you're just making sure your ducks are in a row. That Nunez himself has a chance to shake hands with you, and gets to hear straight from you what he'll be doing.

That's fair. But let's be doubly sure we're on the same page.

As long as something else doesn't happen between now and then -- no other trades for third basemen, no injuries -- Devers must at least platoon at third unless he shows he can't handle it. Nunez bats right, Devers left.

But it wouldn't be crazy to let Devers have the bulk of the playing time, either, and use Nunez to spell Xander Bogaerts and Dustin Pedroia. Or simply have him come off the bench.

Devers didn't look overmatched in his very first big-league game Tuesday night. On the contrary, he was patient at the plate, drawing the walk that started a sixth-inning rally against Felix Hernandez. (King Felix is quite the draw for a someone making his major-league debut, we should note.) He looked like a happy kid, and sounded like one after the game.

"For me it's just going out there and playing my brand of baseball and having fun out there," Devers told reporters through translator Daveson Perez. "That's what I was trying to do and I think I did that."

Devers finished 0-for-4 with a pair of walks, one strikeout and a run scored. He didn't make any errors and looked smooth and quick, his athleticism shining through some baby fat.

Dombrowski spoke during the last homestand about the lack of league-norm production at third base. Nunez can bring that, if nothing more. He is, at a position that's had no certainty, some form of certainty. A stable piece that can help out around the infield and has valuable versatility.

But Nunez is not what the Sox need most: A bopper.

Devers has pop. The chances he blossoms this year are not in his favor because he is the youngest player in the majors. But it would be a most strange and almost cruel choice to call the kid up for two days and then decide you don't need him because of Nunez, who entered Tuesday with the same OPS as Mitch Moreland (.745).

If you're the glass-is-half-full-type, the first four-game losing streak of the season for the Red Sox was numbed by a third-base situation that's been upgraded twofold. Let's assume the Sox know how to best deploy the two from here -- in the big leagues together, until shown a reason to change course.