BOSTON -- Eric Hinske slammed his face on the ground on a spectacular, run-saving catch then smacked the ball over the fence for a go-ahead homer.
The second hit felt better "because it didn't hurt," he said with a smile.
Hinske, making a rare start with right fielder J.D. Drew injured, led the Boston Red Sox to a 4-2 win Thursday night and a sweep of their day-night doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers. Boston won the opener 2-1 behind fifth starter Julian Tavarez's most effective game of the season.
The Red Sox (28-12) increased their lead in the AL East over the second-place New York Yankees to 9½ games. The last time the Yankees were that far back was after games of Sept. 6, 1997.
"When you have a team this deep, you can do some pretty special things," said Curt Schilling, who struggled as the second-game starter. "Today, with Julian in the first game and the bullpen, and tonight with Hinske taking the team by the horns."
Hinske, a former AL rookie of the year with Toronto but a seldom-used spare part with Boston, put a dramatic stamp on the sweep.
With Boston trailing 2-1 and Detroit's Marcus Thames on second with two outs in the fifth, Mike Rabelo hit a fly ball that the wind carried away from Hinske. He dived parallel to the ground and held the ball despite hitting the warning track face first. He stayed down for a short time before trotting off the field to an ovation.
Rabelo called it "the most amazing catch I've ever seen."
Boston manager Terry Francona said Hinske "willed himself to catch that ball."
The dirt, "was all in my eyes, in my mouth," Hinske said. "I was OK. In my mind, unless you've got to carry me off on a stretcher (he'll play). I don't get the chance to play that often."
His two-run homer, his first of the year, came off Wilfredo Ledezma (3-1) and broke a 2-2 tie in the seventh. Jason Varitek was on first after a forceout that followed Mike Lowell's single. With a 2-0 count, Hinske hit the ball over the fence, pumping his right arm in the air as he rounded first base.
He reached the dugout with a big smile and was embraced by David Ortiz, who missed the game because he wasn't feeling well. Ortiz went 0-for-3 in the opener.
"It's fitting in that situation that he was able to do that," Varitek said.
The Red Sox beat the defending AL champions three games to one, holding the Tigers to three runs in the doubleheader that followed a rainout Wednesday night.
"Our pitching did a good job today," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "It wasn't all for naught, but we got beat."
In the second game, Brendan Donnelly (2-1) pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings and Hideki Okajima got his second save, extending his streak of scoreless innings to 19 2-3. Okajima pitched one perfect inning in each game.
Drew missed both games with a bruised back that he got when he ran into the same wall that Hinske's homer cleared as he pursued Brandon Inge's homer Tuesday night in Detroit's 7-2 win.
Inge homered again in the second game Thursday to put Detroit ahead 2-1 in the fourth against Schilling.
Schilling allowed two runs in six innings, but gave up eight hits -- seven doubles and Inge's homer. He also walked three in the first two innings. But Detroit left the bases loaded in both those innings, runners in scoring position in all six and a total of 11 against Schilling.
"We had our chances," Detroit's Gary Sheffield said.
Boston took a 1-0 lead in the first on an RBI single by Kevin Youkilis that extended his hitting streak to a career-high 11 games. Detroit tied it in the third on doubles by Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen.
The Red Sox made it 2-2 in the sixth on a bases-loaded infield single by Alex Cora.
In the opener, Boston needed Tavarez (2-4) to pitch deep into the game with the likelihood that the bullpen will be tested this weekend against Atlanta. Josh Beckett (7-0) will miss his start Friday with a torn piece of skin on his middle finger. Francona said he will go on the disabled list and should be ready to pitch May 29.
Tavarez allowed one run, four singles and four walks in seven innings.
"We'll take seven" innings, Francona said. "And the way he did it, a couple of times he pitched himself into a bind by getting ahead of the hitter and walking guys. It's so nice to see him be able to dial up a pitch."
Manny Ramirez and Youkilis drove in runs for the Red Sox against emergency starter Zach Miner (0-1). Ramirez moved past Willie Stargell into sole possession of 38th place on the career RBI list with 1,541.
Placido Polanco had a fifth-inning RBI single for Detroit.
"For me, this is my 12th full season in the major leagues and I appreciate it day after day," Tavarez said. Francona "gave me a good opportunity to be a starter and I just enjoy every one."
Jonathan Papelbon finished the four-hitter for his 11th save.
Detroit's scheduled starter, Mike Maroth, was scratched because he became ill.
"I woke up at 4:15 and almost missed my flight," said Miner said, who was called up from Triple-A Toledo. "They told me I was coming up to pitch out of the pen. When I got here, they told me I was going to start."
Schilling's four walks matched his high in his four seasons with Boston. ... The Tigers were held without an extra-base hit in the opener for the first time in 27 games. ... Ramirez filled in at DH in the second game and went 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.