DETROIT – Jose Valverde figured this day was coming. At some point, the jovial closer was finally going to blow a save and end a streak that dated to 2010.
When he gave up a ninth-inning lead Thursday in Detroit's season opener against Boston, the Tigers recovered and won anyway.
"The only thing that matters right now is the win," Valverde said. "It was going to happen one day, you know? The thing is you've got to give credit to the hitter, too. There's nothing you can do."
Austin Jackson's bases-loaded single in the bottom of the ninth gave Detroit a 3-2 win over the Red Sox on Thursday after Valverde allowed two runs in the top of the inning to tie the game. It was his first blown save in 52 chances, a streak that included 49 in a row last year and dated to Sept. 2, 2010 against Minnesota.
"When I say this, I mean it: In a way, I'm glad that streak's over," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "It puts that behind us and we can just go forward."
Before Valverde's slip, Justin Verlander was brilliant on the mound and Prince Fielder drove in a key run with his bat, so there were positive signs all around for the Tigers. Jackson, who struck out 351 times in his first two big league seasons, had three hits, including the game-winner.
Boston manager Bobby Valentine lost in his return to the major leagues after replacing Terry Francona following the team's 7-20 September slide that cost the Red Sox a playoff spot last year.
Verlander, last year's AL MVP and Cy Young winner, was dominant for eight innings and left with a 2-0 lead. But Valverde (1-0) couldn't hold on.
Valentine brought in Mark Melancon (0-1) to start the ninth, and he allowed one-out singles to Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila. Alfredo Aceves entered and hit Ramon Santiago with a pitch, and Jackson came through with a single past diving third baseman Nick Punto to win it.
Fielder singled his first time up for the AL Central champions and added a sacrifice fly in the eighth after Jackson had tripled.
Verlander allowed two hits, walked one and struck out seven. It was his fifth consecutive opening day start — and fourth no-decision. Verlander has had problems in April throughout his career.
"This was the best opening day I've had, and hopefully that goes toward all the hard work I've been putting in to get off to a better start," he said. "Long way to go, but it's good to get that first one under your belt and have it be a good one."
David Ortiz hit a sacrifice fly off Valverde, and Ryan Sweeney's two-out triple off the wall in the right-field corner tied it.
Boston's Jon Lester allowed a run and six hits in seven innings. He struck out four and walked three.
Detroit put a runner on base in every inning but didn't score until the seventh, when Peralta and Avila hit doubles with two outs.
Fielder, who signed a $214 million, nine-year deal with the Tigers in the offseason, pulled a 3-2 pitch past second base his first time up for a single.
"That always helps — getting a hit the first at-bat," Fielder said. "Whenever you can get that out of the way, you can relax a little bit."
Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera moved from first base to third to make room for Fielder. His day at the hot corner was uneventful until the sixth, when he lost his balance while catching Jacoby Ellsbury's foul pop and fell into a backward somersault.
Cabrera held onto the ball and came up smiling, but Dustin Pedroia followed with a sharp grounder to third that he misplayed for an error. Verlander struck out Ortiz with two on to end that threat.
Fielder hit into a double play of his own in the sixth.
NOTES: The Tigers reported 45,027 tickets sold, an opening day record for Comerica Park. ... The temperature at game time was 43 degrees. ... Francona was at the game as an analyst for ESPN. ... It was the 12th time Verlander pitched at least eight innings without allowing a run, and only the second time he did that and didn't get a win, according to STATS. ... Detroit RHP Doug Fister will face Boston RHP Josh Beckett when the teams play again Saturday.