DETROIT — It’s definitely not the norm for two closers in the same ballpark to lose their jobs on the same day.
That’s what happened Thursday night in Detroit, though.
Boston manager John Farrell announced Andrew Bailey would be given a respite from closing duties after the reliever served up a two-run home run to Jhonny Peralta in the ninth inning to give the Tigers a 4-3 victory over the Red Sox.
Earlier in the day, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Joaquin Benoit would replace Jose Valverde as Detroit’s ninth-inning specialist — when he’s healthy and available.
“Yeah, I think so,” Farrell responded when asked after the game if a move out of the closer’s role was in the works for Bailey, who has not seen a return of his usual velocity since coming back from a stint on the disabled list caused by a sore shoulder. “We’ll back him out of that, give him a break for a while and try someone else.”
Bailey, who blew his fourth save in 12 chances, threw three straight balls to the leadoff man in the ninth, Victor Martinez, then walked him on a 3-1 pitch before dealing with Peralta.
The Detroit shortstop fended off two breaking balls, took a ball and then slammed the 1-2 pitch over the left field fence for his seventh home run of the season, scoring pinch runner Don Kelly.
Bailey (3-1) has allowed runs in four of his last five outings.
Drew Smyly (3-0) earned the victory by throwing two scoreless innings of relief, although he hit a batter to load the bases with two out in the eighth and gave up a two-out double in the ninth.
Leyland was a little snippy in his postgame remarks because he’s dealing with a bullpen weakened by the loss, probably for the season, of seventh-inning man Octavio Dotel (sore right elbow), and now Valverde, whose time with the club has probably run out if he can’t be used to close games and can’t be trusted in close-game situations.
“I’ll probably try to close games with Benoit if he’s available and hasn’t pitched too much,” Leyland said. “I’m not naming anyone the closer because I’m not sure who would be available.”
Farrell was purposely vague about his back-end alternative.
“We’ll talk more about that internally,” he said. “(Bailey) is obviously snake-bit now.”
“I’m not doing the job,” said Bailey, who was handed a 3-2 lead to protect thanks largely to David Ortiz.
An Ortiz home run on the first pitch of the fourth broke a scoreless tie, and his single in the eighth after two walks broke a 2-2 deadlock.
Phil Coke had entered the game and struck out the last hitter of the seventh on three pitches but threw nine straight balls to put two runners on in the top of the eighth. His first strike of the inning was gunned into right field by Ortiz for an RBI single.
Smyly came in at that point and worked out of the jam, then pitched a scoreless ninth to give his team a chance to win.
Leyland was in his own bind because he didn’t want to use Valverde in that spot, and he didn’t want to bring in Benoit in a tie game at home. His other alternatives either are not battle-tested or not built for late-inning duty.
He had the left-handed Smyly warming up with the lefty Coke on the mound. He probably wanted Coke to finish the eighth and then have Smyly open the ninth because he could work multiple innings and is the better choice against right-handed hitters than the veteran Coke is.
“(Ortiz) was 1-for-15 off Coke,” Leyland said when asked whether he was tempted to bring Smyly on after the two walks. “I can’t pitch with a two-man bullpen. Phil Coke has to do something for us. We need Phil Coke.
“There is no 12th man on your pitching staff. Every pitcher has to be able to do something for you.”
Boston carried the lead into the late innings thanks to a solid outing by John Lackey. The veteran right-hander faltered only in the fifth when he allowed the first two Detroit runs. He allowed seven hits but no more than one in any inning aside from the fifth. Lackey walked one and struck out five in seven innings.
“Lackey did an excellent job,” Farrell said. “He didn’t want to come out, but 98 pitches, it was time.”
Koji Uehara retired the side in order in the eighth, getting the third out on a booming Prince Fielder fly to the scoreboard in right center that was caught by center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury.
Boston made it 2-0 in the top of the fifth when Jose Iglesias lined a triple to the gap in right center to open the inning and Ellsbury singled him home. Detroit tied the score at 2 in the fifth on Torii Hunter’s two-run bloop single to right off Lackey.
NOTES: Detroit LF Matt Tuiasosopo was scratched due to a mild right intercostal strain. Leyland replaced him with left-handed-hitting Andy Dirks, who had been struggling. … The Red Sox will recall RHP Allen Webster from Triple-A Pawtucket on Saturday night to start against Detroit. “He’s been throwing the ball well,” Farrell said, “and with much better command, especially with his fastball. I’m looking forward to seeing him here Saturday.” Webster started two games for Boston earlier this season, going 0-1 with an 11.74 ERA. … Peralta’s walk-off home run was the third of his career. … Red Sox RHP Clay Buchholz threw off flat ground Thursday and was scheduled to throw a bullpen session Saturday, with an eye toward making a return to the rotation on Tuesday. Buchholz is currently on the disabled list with a neck strain. … Boston OF Mike Carp, out since leaving Sunday’s game at Baltimore with right hamstring tightness, should be ready to go this weekend. Farrell indicated that Carp was available Thursday night.