BOSTON — Justin Verlander knew it was his last batter, and it was a dangerous one.
So the Tigers right-hander reached back for a pair of 100 mph fastballs that blew by Jason Bay and essentially clinched Detroit's 2-0 victory over the Boston Red Sox on Thursday.
"That's a horse," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said, after the AL Central-leading Tigers avoided a four-game sweep and beat the Red Sox for the first time in seven tries this season. "That's a brilliant performance. The eighth inning was textbook, No. 1-type pitching. To do what he did in that inning, at that point in the ballgame, there's not many guys who can do that."
Bay had homered in each of the first three games in the series, and he had three hits on Wednesday night to help Boston win its third straight. When he came up with two out in the eighth and a runner on second, Verlander knew it would be a bad time to make a mistake.
"That was a big at-bat," Verlander said. "I was just thinking, 'I'm not going to give up a game-tying home run in the eighth, when our guys have battled so hard.'"
Verlander (13-6) allowed four hits in eight innings, striking out eight and walking one while retiring 16 of the last 19 batters he faced. Ryan Raburn homered for Detroit, and Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth for his 24th save.
Verlander twice hit No. 9 hitter Chris Woodward with a pitch, but there was none of the animosity that marred Tuesday night's game and earned Red Sox infielder Kevin Youkilis and Tigers pitcher Rick Porcello a pair of five-game suspensions.
Both players dropped the suspension on Wednesday night.
Clay Buchholz (1-3) allowed five hits in seven innings, walking three and striking out three while giving up Raburn's homer to go with an unearned run in the fourth.
"As good as Verlander was — and I'm probably exaggerating — I thought Clay was almost one pitch worse," Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. "We just ran up against one of the better performances you'll see."
Buchholz lost his third straight decision, even though he has only allowed three earned runs over 13 innings in his last two starts. He lost to New York Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia on Saturday.
"I'm picking the wrong pitchers to throw against," Buchholz said. "The last two guys have been as good as I've seen, so you can't read too deep into it. It's proven that it's working, but it's hard to win games when you've got guys throwing like that."
Victor Martinez had two hits for Boston, and he also stole a base for the second time in his career and the first time since 2003.
Verlander got all the offense he needed in the fourth.
Miguel Cabrera hit a sinking liner to right field that went off Josh Reddick's shoe and bounced away. It was originally scored a double, then changed to a single with an error. Cabrera took third on a groundout and scored on Raburn's infield single.
Raburn made it 2-0 with a home run over the Green Monster in left field. It was his seventh homer of the year.
The Red Sox put runners on second and third in the first inning before Verlander struck out Jason Bay and David Ortiz, each on a 99 mph fastball.
Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to lead off the eighth, but he remained there while Reddick struck out, Martinez popped out foul to the third baseman and Bay whiffed on a 100 mph fastball — Verlander's 123rd and final pitch of the day.
NOTES: Verlander is 6-2 in 10 afternoon starts this season. ... Verlander had allowed 13 earned runs in his previous three starts. ... It was Verlander's 15th game with eight or more strikeouts. ... The Tigers said after the game they would option RHP Freddy Dolsi to Triple-A and call up RHP Eddie Bonine.