DETROIT (AP) _ The box score credits Heathcliff Slocumb with saving Boston's 2-1 win Sunday over the Detroit Tigers. But Wilfredo Cordero, Nomar Garciaparra and Scott Hatteberg were the real Red Sox saviors.

They combined to nail Brian Johnson at the plate as he tried to score the tying run with two outs in the ninth. Their perfect left field-to-shortstop-to catcher relay salvaged one win for the Red Sox in their three-game series at Detroit.

Johnson was running on a 3-2 pitch when Jody Reed doubled into the left-field corner. Cordero played a hard carom off the wall perfectly and threw to Garciaparra in short left.

Garciaparra's throw was in plenty of time for Hatteberg to tag out Johnson.

``Nomar made a great throw,'' Hatteberg said. ``I had enough time to brace myself and tag. The ball was hit to left, so I could see everything _ the runner and the ball.''

Garciaparra said he didn't see Johnson heading home until after he threw.

``I had to figure they were sending him and everything has to go right,'' Garciaparra said. ``Wil made a perfect throw to me, and I just wheeled and threw home.''

Tigers manager Buddy Bell thought the carom to Cordero set up the play.

``In a 3-2 situation on a ball down the line, you almost always send the guy with two outs,'' Bell said. ``I'm not saying it's lucky, but you almost never see the ball bounce off the wall like that.

``Cordero did what he had to do and Garciaparra made a nice throw. They played it well.''

Bell didn't pinch-run for Johnson, a catcher, because he'd already lifted starting catcher Raul Casanova after his leadoff double in the seventh. That move backfired when pitcher Omar Olivares, pinch-running for the second time this season, was picked off second by Hatteberg.

``It turned out to be pretty big,'' Hatteberg said. ``It was good to get out of that jam right then.''

Hatteberg also threw out Travis Fryman trying to steal third in the third inning. And that all added up to Tom Gordon's fourth win in five decisions.

Gordon (5-6) pitched seven solid innings, giving up just one run and four hits.

``I knew I needed to keep the ball on the infield and keep the ball down,'' Gordon said. ``I had all my pitches and I was hitting my spots pretty well all day.''

Gordon's performance was just what the Red Sox needed after their starters worked just 4 1-3 innings and the bullpen was bombed in 12-6 and 15-4 losses the previous two games.

``It's a big lift for us to have a guy go out and shut that club down after the way they hit us the last two nights,'' Red Sox manager Jimy Williams said.

Slocumb pitched the ninth for his seventh save.

Willie Blair (4-4) didn't allow a runner through the first four innings but exited with two outs in the seventh after giving up two runs and five hits.

Boston broke a 1-1 tie on Troy O'Leary's RBI double in the seventh.

``It's frustrating when you don't get a win and pitch as well as I did,'' Blair said. ``I can't let that affect me. We just ran into Tom Gordon when he was at his best.''

The loss snapped a three-game winning streak for Detroit, which was in search of its first three-game sweep of Boston since 1982.

``When you hit like we did the last two games and then don't sweep, it's somewhat disappointing,'' Bell said.

Despite losing the series, the Red Sox are 12-3 in Tiger Stadium since 1995.

The Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Brian Hunter scored from third on Tony Clark's hard groundout.

Blair was perfect through the first four innings with a major assist from Melvin Nieves, who ran to the right-center wall and reached above it to rob Garciaparra of a leadoff homer in the fourth.

Reggie Jefferson singled off Blair's glove and Mike Stanley hit a clean single to left to start the fifth. But a flyout and double play ended that threat.

The Red Sox broke through for a 1-1 tie in the sixth when Garciaparra hit a sacrifice fly one out after John Valentin's leadoff double.

Notes: Boston pitching coach Joe Kerrigan approached reserve infielder Mike Benjamin about being an emergency pitcher a couple of weeks ago. ``I'm a utility guy, so it's not like I'm going to hurt my arm,'' said Benjamin, who pitched a scoreless eighth in Boston's 15-4 loss Saturday night. ... Hunter has stolen 32 bases in 70 games. His career high is 35 in 132 games last year with Houston.