DETROIT -- David Ortiz's drive was plenty deep -- and more importantly, it was headed toward the right part of the ballpark.
''I think I broke my own record for hitting hard balls right at people,'' Ortiz said. ''After you put a good swing on the ball, the next hope is the ball travels where nobody's at.''
The Red Sox left men on base all night long, including when Ortiz was retired on a deep flyball to center in the seventh, but there was no doubt about his homer off Joba Chamberlain, which carried about halfway up the section of seats beyond the wall in right.
Chamberlain (1-3) was trying to protect a one-run lead instead of struggling closer Joe Nathan, who had pitched the previous two nights.
Detroit's Miguel Cabrera left in the sixth with left hamstring tightness.
''Obviously, that's one of the last guys you want to face in any key situation, and he showed everyone why again tonight,'' Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. ''He did what he has done in his whole career.''
Lackey allowed two earned runs and seven hits, and it looked as if he would have to settle for a complete-game loss for the second consecutive game before Ortiz put the Red Sox ahead.
It was the only hit of the night for Ortiz, who lined out to third in the fifth because there was a man on second and the infield wasn't shifted the way it probably would have been otherwise.
''That's been my whole life this year -- just hitting balls hard right at people,'' Ortiz said. ''When I saw the third baseman right there, I was like, `What are you doing there?'''
Mike Napoli also homered for Boston in his first game back from a finger injury. He finished with three hits, and Lackey figures Napoli's presence in the on-deck circle helped Ortiz hit his go-ahead homer.
''They wouldn't have thrown one near the strike zone if that dude wasn't standing on deck,'' Lackey said.
Boston's previous seven series all ended in sweeps, with the Red Sox on the losing end of four. They avoided that fate Sunday despite leaving 10 men on base.
With the score tied at 2 in the seventh, Holt hit a one-out triple, but with the infield in, Xander Bogaerts hit a grounder to third and Nick Castellanos made a diving stop for the second out. After a walk to Pedroia, the AL Central-leading Tigers brought in Phil Coke, perhaps the most maligned member of Detroit's beleaguered bullpen.
With the count full, Ortiz hit a drive to center that Austin Jackson tracked down about 400 feet from the plate. Ortiz is now 2 for 19 against Coke -- but he would get another chance later against Chamberlain.
Detroit took the lead with an unearned run in the seventh. After Castellanos led off with a single, Jackson hit a slow roller that Bogaerts mishandled at third for an error. One out later, Eugenio Suarez singled sharply to left to put the Tigers ahead.
Detroit starter Anibal Sanchez allowed two runs and six hits in six innings. He struck out seven and walked two.
The Red Sox had men on first and third with one out in the fourth before Sanchez struck out Stephen Drew and Jackie Bradley Jr.
Pedroia opened the scoring in the third with a sacrifice fly, but Suarez tied it in the bottom of the inning with an RBI single. Cabrera doubled in the fourth and scored on Victor Martinez's single.
Napoli's sixth homer tied it in the sixth.
Detroit C Alex Avila struck out three times in his first game back since he was hit in the head Friday by the follow-through of Ortiz's swing. ... Bogaerts and Bradley also struck out three times. ... The Tigers play at the Chicago White Sox on Monday night. Detroit RHP Rick Porcello (8-3) faces RHP Hector Noesi (1-3). ... Boston plays at Baltimore, with Red Sox RHP Jake Peavy (1-3) taking the mound against RHP Bud Norris (4-5).