BOSTON -- It started out as a seemingly perfect night at Fenway Park -- the weather was finally warm and clear, right fielder Shane Victorino returned after an injury scare, and the Red Sox had one of their most reliable starters on the mound to oppose Rick Porcello, a pitcher the Sox typically hit.
Then the game started and that illusion shattered.
The visiting Tigers scored early and often en route to a 6-1 win over the Red Sox on Saturday night, Detroit's second win in as many days in the first series between the teams since last fall's American League Championship Series.
"[With] the way Porcello has been pitching all season and again tonight, early runs, we find ourselves behind, and one real scoring threat, in the fourth inning, that we come up empty," said Red Sox manager John Farrell. "That was pretty much the story here tonight."
Porcello, a righty who in five games against Boston had never pitched more than six innings, limited the Sox to one run on six hits over the course of eight innings. He struck out four and walked one to easily outpitch right-hander John Lackey, who gave up six runs (five earned) on nine hits in just 5 1/3 innings, matching his shortest outing of the season. Lackey also struck out four and walked two.
In Farrell's eyes, Lackey had good stuff but missed his spots -- specifically, giving righties too many fastballs inside.
"It is a rarity, because he's done so well with [pitching away to use] the big part of the ballpark in center field and right field," Farrell said. "And whether it was a tendency to rush a little bit where his arm wouldn't catch up, that's a possibility. But the consistent fastball location wasn't the same tonight as we've seen for just about every start this season for John."
The Red Sox's offensive effort was minimal. They left six runners on base and went 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, most notably with the bases loaded in the fourth. A.J. Pierzynski grounded out weakly to second base to end the inning.
"That was the biggest situation in the game," Porcello said. "At that point, it was a 2-0 ballgame, and they had a lot of pressure on me there. To get out of there was big."
Xander Bogaerts supplied the Red Sox's lone run when he sent a blast over the Green Monster in the fifth. The 21-year-old rookie shortstop's first career Fenway long ball made him the youngest Red Sox to hit one out at home since Jim Rice in 1974.
The homer proved to be a turning point, but not in the way the Red Sox had hoped. Bogaerts' roundtripper was the last at-bat of a stretch in which the Sox went 5-for-14 with a walk during three-plus innings, forcing Porcello to throw about half of his 110 pitches.
After that, though, Porcello settled in. He set down 12 of 13 Red Sox batters to cap his outing and pick up his sixth win in six starts, again receiving plenty of run support.
"His fastball's always the key with the sinker, but he threw some really good curveballs, especially early," said Detroit manager Brad Ausmus. "He threw some changeups that were outstanding. He mixed in his slider. But really, the curveball and the changeup were the two offspeed pitches that were working for him."
Detroit jumped ahead, 1-0, in the second inning when Victor Martinez scored on Alex Avila's groundout, then doubled the lead once Miguel Cabrera wrapped Lackey's 94-mph fastball around Pesky's Pole in right field in the third.
Five straight at-bats ending in hard contact resulted in two more runs for the Tigers in the fifth. Cabrera followed back-to-back doubles from Ian Kinsler and Torii Hunter with a single to center for a 4-0 lead.
Rajai Davis doubled to plate Avila an inning later to chase Lackey after 96 pitches. Davis later scored on Kinsler's sacrifice fly.
The loss leaves the Red Sox two games under .500 -- again -- and looking to salvage the series Sunday night, when Jake Peavy faces Detroit's Anibal Sanchez. It's not going to be easy.
"They're deep all the way through the lineup," Lackey said of the No. 10 scoring offense in the Majors. "They're pretty good."
Tim Healey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.