DETROIT -- David Ortiz didn't do much for the first eight innings. He made up for it in the last two.
Ortiz tied the score with a ninth-inning homer off Detroit Tigers closer Fernando Rodney, then hit a three-run shot off Jamie Walker during a seven-run 10th that carried the Boston Red Sox to a 10-7 victory Tuesday night.
"He's the best hitter in the game when it counts," teammate Johnny Damon said. "The best clutch hitter I've ever seen."
Pinch-hitter Bill Mueller snapped a 3-3 tie with an RBI groundout in the 10th. Ortiz and Jason Varitek both homered later in the inning for the Red Sox, who have won seven of eight. They lead the Yankees by 4½ games in the AL East.
Varitek homered from both sides of the plate, the first time he has accomplished the feat. It was the first time a Red Sox player connected from both sides since Mueller did it on July 29, 2003, at Texas.
Ortiz's home run in the ninth off Rodney tied it at 3-all.
"I knew he has a good fastball," said Ortiz, who once played winter ball with Rodney. "I wasn't giving up on his fastball."
Suddenly, the Red Sox had new life.
"We were one pitch away from going home," Boston manager Terry Francona said. "David put a good swing on it and we got to keep playing."
"I don't even care," Monroe said, referring to his first career slam. "It was a waste. We lost."
Walker replaced Dingman but gave up an RBI single to Damon. He stole second and went to third on Edgar Renteria's infield hit before Ortiz hit his second homer in two innings deep into the right-center stands.
"Our bullpen just didn't do the job," Tigers manager Alan Trammell said. "Yesterday, they were great."
Boston's seven-run 10th was its biggest extra-inning total since scoring seven times in the 11th inning on June 4, 1982, against the Angels.
Chad Bradford (2-0) pitched a scoreless inning for the win.
With the score tied at 2, Chris Shelton led off the Detroit eighth with a double over Ramirez's head in left, then went to third on Dmitri Young's groundout.
Magglio Ordonez's sacrifice fly gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead.
Detroit's Nate Robertson allowed two runs -- on Varitek's first homer -- and two hits in eight innings, but he is winless in five starts.
"He went right through us," Francona said. "If not for that one swing early by Varitek, we might not have ever gotten a chance in the ninth."
Trammell said he felt good about his decision to pull Robertson, who threw only 90 pitches. Rodney is Detroit's fourth closer this season after the trades of Ugueth Urbina and Kyle Farnsworth and a season-ending injury to Troy Percival.
"It is easy to second-guess me, but it was my call," Trammell said. "I'd like someone to give me a guarantee that David Ortiz wouldn't have done that to Nate Robertson. We're talking about someone who is arguably one of the best players in baseball."
Robertson said he would have loved to pitch the ninth, but wasn't surprised by the decision.
"It's what you do," he said. "That's why you pay a closer. That's his job. The same thing happened to Curt Schilling last night, and he's one of the best pitchers ever."
Red Sox rookie Jonathan Papelbon, making his second career start, allowed two runs and six hits in five innings.
Boston took a 2-0 lead in the second when Ramirez walked and Varitek homered into the left-field bullpen. But Robertson retired his next 11 batters and didn't give up another hit until Renteria's single in the sixth.
Detroit tied it in the fifth on Polanco's two-run single, but he was thrown out trying to advance to second.
- The Red Sox recalled Papelbon from Triple-A Pawtucket before the game to fill the roster spot vacated by the demotion of reliever Manny Delcarmen on Monday.
- Detroit C Ivan Rodriguez (hip flexor) missed his second straight game and is day to day.
- Tigers SS Carlos Guillen (knee) has not played since Aug. 10 and was in New York on Tuesday for a second opinion on his knee.
- Youkilis started at third, giving him his first major league at-bats since July 9.
- After the game, Boston activated 1B John Olerud from the 15-day disabled list and optioned Youkilis to Pawtucket.
- Papelbon also got a no-decision in his first start, allowing three runs -- two earned -- in 5 1/3 innings against Minnesota on July 31.