(Reuters) - The Detroit Tigers got another superlative effort from their starting pitcher but a toothless attack left them 2-1 down to the Boston Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.
Justin Verlander held Boston without a hit until Jonny Gomes reached on an infield single with two outs in the fifth, but a home run by Mike Napoli was all Boston starter John Lackey and three relievers needed to register a 1-0 victory in Detroit.
"Just come to expect that in this series," said Verlander, who had thrown 34-1/3 consecutive scoreless innings dating back to the regular season until Napoli's blast.
"It's going to be a battle for every single out, every single run. It's two heavyweights going at it. If you can't appreciate this you can't appreciate baseball."
In Game Two, the Tigers led 5-1 before the bullpen coughed up the lead with a grand slam homer by David Ortiz in the eighth tying it, and a single by Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the ninth ending it.
Detroit starting pitching, however, has been remarkable so far in this final hurdle on the way to the World Series.
Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Max Scherzer have combined to pitch 21 innings, yielding a total of two runs and six hits, while striking out 35.
"It's been an amazing first three games," added Verlander. "A tough one today, but we'll bounce back just as we have all year and hopefully even the series tomorrow."
Detroit will send Doug Fister (14-9) to the mound against Boston's Jake Peavy (12-5) in Wednesday's Game Four at Comerica Park.
Torii Hunter had two of Detroit's six hits, including a line drive single to right in the eighth that put men on first and third with one out and sluggers Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder coming to the plate.
Junichi Tazawa threw a fastball by Cabrera for strike three and fellow reliever Koji Uehara struck out Fielder on a diving splitter to deny the Tigers' best chance in the game.
"We lost. You can't dwell on a loss," said outfielder Hunter, who joined the Tigers as a free agent in a quest to reach his first World Series.
"It's the past. We got to focus on the task at hand. If you dwell on losses and you're still thinking about it or talking about it tomorrow you're going to lose."
Designated hitter Victor Martinez agreed.
"You got to turn the page. If you are not able to turn the page, just go home. It's as simple as that. In the past, we've been able to do that."
Writing by Larry Fine in New York, Editing by Greg Stutchbury