DETROIT — Jake Peavy had just committed the unpardonable baseball sin of walking a struggling hitter on four pitches to force in a run in a postseason game.
But redemption was a pitch away and Peavy made the one he needed, a fastball low and away that Jose Iglesias slapped sharply to second base. The Red Sox were a double play away from ending the inning.
All Dustin Pedroia had to do was make a quick throw to shortstop Stephen Drew. But Pedroia dropped the ball and by the time he found it, a run scored and the inning was still alive for the Detroit Tigers.
By the time it was over, Detroit had scored three more runs and was on its way to a 7-3 victory in Game 4 of the American League Championship Series Wednesday night.
The series is 2-2 and is now a best-of-three for a spot in the World Series. The Red Sox have home-field advantage for Games 6 and 7, but Detroit has Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, and Justin Verlander lined up to pitch. That trio held the Sox to two runs on six hits over 21 innings in the first three games of the series and struck out 35.
Game 5 is Thursday night back at Comerica Park with Sanchez facing Jon Lester.
“Even stevens right now; nobody’s up,” David Ortiz said. “We’ve two more games to go; we’re going to try to win it. I’ve got my money on Lester.”
A day after a compelling 1-0 victory, the Red Sox played with a surprising lack of attention to detail. Peavy lasted three innings, giving up seven runs. The defense, usually crisp, was sloppy.
The Sox outhit the Tigers, 12-9, but 10 of the hits came after they were down, 5-0, and they were 2 for 16 with runners in scoring position. The Sox never really threatened Detroit starter Doug Fister, who cruised through six innings.
“Bad game all around,” Peavy said. “I do know that we’re going to come back and play better than this.”
Tigers manager Jim Leyland changed his batting order and results followed. New leadoff hitter Torii Hunter had a two-run double. Miguel Cabrera, moved up to the second spot, drove in two runs.
Struggling Austin Jackson, dropped to eighth in the order, was 2 for 2 with two walks and two RBIs.
“I think something had to be done,” Leyland said. “I don’t want to say this had anything to do with it . . . The only thing we know for sure is that we’re going to back to Boston.”
Changes could be coming for the Red Sox next. Shortstop Stephen Drew was 0 for 4 and is 1 for 13 in the series. Third baseman Will Middlebrooks was 0 for 2 and is 1 for 10. They are a combined 7 of 51 in the postseason.
Rookie Xander Bogaerts, who doubled in the ninth inning for his first postseason hit and later scored, could start Game 5 at one of those positions.
“Haven’t made a decision on tomorrow’s lineup,” manager John Farrell said. “But we’re struggling a little bit to get some production out of that side. So, it’s something that’s being considered, for sure.”
Peavy allowed seven runs on five hits and three walks over three innings. He became only the fifth Red Sox starter to allow at least seven earned runs in a postseason game, the first since Josh Beckett in the 2008 ALCS against Tampa Bay.
It was the shortest playoff start for a Red Sox pitcher since Tim Wakefield lasted 2⅔ innings against Tampa Bay, also in the 2008 ALCS.
Peavy is now 0-3 with a 10.31 earned run average in four career postseason starts. He pitched well against the Rays in Game 4 of the Division Series, allowing one run over 5⅔ innings. But after a perfect first inning on Wednesday, Peavy looked overwhelmed.
The bottom of the inning was clinic on giving a game away as the Tigers sent nine batters to the plate and scored five runs.
Victor Martinez flicked a two-strike fastball the other way into left field for a single. Peavy then walked Jhonny Peralta [on four pitches] and Alex Avila to load the bases.
Omar Infante popped out to shallow center field, Jacoby Ellsbury making a diving play to save a run. But Peavy inexplicably walked the struggling Jackson on four pitches to force in a run.
Jackson was 3 for 33 in the postseason with 18 strikeouts, including 1 for 13 in the ALCS. But Peavy pitched to Jackson like he was the hottest hitter in the game.
“Got to make him swing the bat and just couldn’t do that,” Peavy said.
Iglesias followed with a hard-hit grounder to second. Disaster followed.
“It was hit hard. It’s one of those things, he kind of backspun it and I thought it was going to hop up and it stayed down,” Pedroia said. “It landed in the web of my glove and we got one out instead of two. It’s my responsibility to turn double plays. We got a ground ball and I didn’t field it clean.”
Said Farrell: “He squares it up and that’s a routine double play. We’ve seen it many times over.”
The mistake opened the door for a big inning that took the Red Sox out of the game.
Hunter followed with a two-run double down the line in left and Cabrera with an RBI single. Peavy was down, 5-0, after a 31-pitch inning.
“We dug ourselves a hole,” Peavy said. “We had our chances to get out of that inning and minimize the damage . . . That’s a tough play. Pedey, that’s not on him. I’ve got to do a better job.”
Infante doubled of Peavy to start fourth inning and scored on Jackson’s single. That ended the righthander’s night.
Down, 7-0, the Sox got RBIs from Jarrod Saltalamacchia (single), Shane Victorino (double), and Ellsbury (triple).Peter Abraham can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @PeteAbe.