DETROIT — The Boston Red Sox struggled for offense in this American League Championship Series, but Manager John Farrell spoke of positive signs before Game 5.
In a shutout loss in Game 1, “we built opportunities.”
In the Game 4 loss, “I liked the way we swung the bats.”
For Thursday’s Game 5, “I hope we get a combination of the two.”
The Red Sox got it.
Boston scored early for the first time in this series and held on for a 4-3 win over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
Boston took a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and is one win from its first World Series appearance since 2007. Game 6 will be Saturday at Fenway Park, the time to be determined.
Boston scored three times in the second inning, highlighted by Mike Napoli’s booming solo home run off losing pitcher Anibal Sanchez. The Red Sox added another run in the third.
Napoli went 3 for 4 with two runs scored.
Jon Lester made his ninth postseason start for Boston and recorded his first win in an ALCS. He lasted only 51/3 innings but it was enough.
Lester allowed two runs on seven hits and three walks.
The expected bullpen trio of Junichi Tazawa, Craig Breslow and Koji Uehara picked up the team for the rest of the game. Tazawa allowed a run. Breslow retired his two batters and Uehara got a five-out save.
Lester began the game in trouble with two baserunners in the first after a walk to Miguel Cabrera and single by Prince Fielder. With two outs, Jhonny Peralta singled to left.
Cabrera, slowed by a groin injury, lumbered to third base, where coach Tom Brookens was initially waving him home.
Brookens put up the stop sign as Cabrera reached third, but Cabrera kept running. Left fielder Jonny Gomes threw him out.
Napoli led off the second and worked a 3-1 count. Sanchez came with a 92 mph fastball and Napoli put his powerful uppercut to it, sending it high over the center-field wall. It was his second home run of the series.
Gomes reached on a grounder to third that Cabrera muffed. With one out, Xander Bogaerts stepped to the plate, making Red Sox history. Bogaerts, 21, became the youngest Boston player to start a postseason game. The previous youngest? Babe Ruth.
Bogaerts swatted a hanging slider to left for a double, sending Gomes to third.
David Ross, in the game because he works well with Lester, doubled to deep left. Gomes scored but Bogaerts made a rookie mistake, tagging at second and only getting to third.
It didn’t matter. Jacoby Ellsbury singled on a hard grounder off Sanchez’s glove, scoring Bogaerts for a 3-0 lead.
Shane Victorino grounded to second. Ross tried to score but was thrown out. Ross collide with Detroit catcher Alex Avila, but Avila held to the ball. Avila eventually had to leave with a left knee strain.
With one out in the third, Napoli doubled. He went to third on Gomes’ groundout and scored on a wild pitch for a 4-0 lead.
Lester got into a jam in the fourth, allowing a single and walk with one out. Brayan Pena hit into a 1-6-3 double play.
Detroit broke through in the fifth with two hits, including an RBI single from Cabrera.
Another walk-single combination chased Lester in the sixth with one out.
Tazawa gave up an RBI single to Pena, closing the score to 4-2, before getting a double-play grounder by Austin Jackson.
Tazawa got in a jam in the seventh. Singles by Jose Iglesias and Torii Hunter put runners on first and third with Cabrera coming up.
Tazawa, who struck out Cabrera on Tuesday, got him to hit into a double play that scored Iglesias, closing the score to 4-3.
Breslow relieved. He got Fielder to ground out to end the seventh. Breslow began the eighth by getting Victor Martinez to ground out. Farrell called for Uehara. He struck out Peralta in a nine-pitch battle, then struck out Omar Infante.
Boston squandered a chance in the ninth. With runners on second and third with one out, Victorino struck out and Dustin Pedroia flied out.
Uehara got Pena and Jackson to fly out, before getting Iglesias to pop out to end it.
This story was corrected at 8:40 a.m. on Friday Oct. 18 to correct the inning numbers referenced in the last five paragraphs. A previous version had incorrectly identified events from the seventh inning as happening in the eighth.
Kevin Thomas can be reached at 791-6411 or:firstname.lastname@example.orgTwitter: @ClearTheBases