The Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox found themselves in a pitcher's duel for a second straight game. Tonight it was Max Scherzer and Jon Lester going at it hammer and tong, Lester out-pitching Scherzer in a 2-1 Red Sox victory. In a battle for the best record in the AL and playoff home field, the Red Sox extend their lead over the Tigers, .593 to .583.
Miguel Cabrera was back in the Tigers' starting lineup after missing three game with an abdominal issues. The rust showed, MLB's leading hitter going hitless in four at bats.
Lester (13-8) earned the win by going mano-a-mano with the Cy Young favorite, scattering eight hits and striking out a season high nine, allowing just one run in seven innings of work. Closer Koji Uehara blew the Tigers away in the ninth on nine pitches, earning his 17th save.
Scherzer (19-2) had just one bad inning, allowing three hits and both Red Sox runs in the fifth inning, enough to tag him with his second loss of the season. In dropping his first game since July 13, Scherzer pitched into the eighth, allowing two runs on five hits.
Even though the Red Sox were outhit by the Tigers 9-6, they were able string together three in the fifth. Will Middlebrooks came through with the third hit of inning, which would prove to be thew game winner, a two out, two run single.
Jose Iglesias drove in the only run of the game for the Tigers with a second inning double. Austin Jackson and Omar infante chipped in two hits apiece.
In what has been a well played, very evenly matched series between two teams with World Series aspirations, offense has been hard to come by. The first two games of the series have been pitcher's duels, only six runs total have been scored as each team has recorded a win.
It sure has felt like a preview of October baseball.
The Tigers made Jon Lester work hard in a 25 pitch first inning. But just as yesterday, they squandered an early threat.
Austin Jackson led off with with a double off the Green Monster in left center. One down and making his first plate appearance since Friday, Miguel Cabrera flew out to deep right, Jackson tagging and advancing to third. But Lester would strand Jackson 90 feet away by striking out Prince Fielder to end the inning.
Max Scherzer's bottom half of the first was a tad less stressful. Scherzer pounded the strike zone, striking out the side on 13 pitches.
Top of two, the Tigers took the lead with a two out RBI hit, but also ran themselves out of the inning. A Tom Brookens caused TOOTBLAN, if you will.
One down, Omar Infante singled to center. With two down, Brayan Pena's line drive single high off the Green Monster sent Infante to third. Jose Iglesias followed by ripping a line drive which sailed past center fielder David Ross, rolling all the way to the wall. Infante jogged home with the Tigers' first run, but Brookens elected to wave the Food Truck around, despite his being slower than a, well, overloaded, under-powered food truck.
Pena was out by
five ten 15 feet, not even bothering to slide. It would have been an exercise in futility.
The Tigers were up 1-0, but instead of two out with two runners in scoring position for Jackson, the inning was over.
My drunken 19 year old self puts up the stop sign RT @DNR_Rogo: Tom Brookens has the decision making skills of a 19 year old after ten beers— Al Beaton (@BigAlBYB) September 3, 2013
Tigers need a base-coach at home plate. Just to laugh and hold up their arms and tell guys not to bother sliding because they're dead.— Lynn G. Henning (@Lynn_Henning) September 3, 2013
Scherzer allowed the Red Sox's first hit with two out in the bottom of the second, Johnny Gomes reaching on an infield single. Miguel Cabrera made a great diving stop on a ball headed toward the left corner, but was unable to throw Gomes out from his knees. Scherzer shrugged it off, retiring the next seven Red Sox in order.
Not to be outdone, Lester was going toe-to-toe with Scherzer, retiring six consecutive Tigers after Iglesias' RBI double.
Another day, another pitcher's duel at Fenway. The Tigers clung to a 1-0 lead through four full innings.
Lester made it seven straight outs before third baseman Will Middlebrooks was charged with a tough error, unable to handle Pena's ground ball down the line. Two down, Jackson's seeing eye looper found the gap in the right side, moving Pena into scoring position.
Torii Hunter followed with a single to left, but with Gomes playing extremely shallow, Brookens had no choice but to hold Pena at third. Regardless, Cabrera was due to the plate. But Lester pitched out of the two out jam, leaving the bases loaded when Cabrera bounced to short.
Hey, it happens!
Scherzer got into his first jam with one out in the fifth. Gomes reached for the second time, singling to left. Scherzer then caught a big break when Stephen Drew's liner to right center, which was going to drop for extra bases and would have plated Gomes, bounced over the wall for a ground rule double.
Scherzer reared back, throwing fastballs by Ross for the second out.. But just as it looked as if Scherzer might pitch out of trouble, Middlebrooks singled to center, both runners scoring to give the Red Sox their first lead of the game, let alone first runs of the series.
Up 2-1, the Red Sox were looking for more runs. Middlebrooks was able to swipe second, getting such a huge jump Pena didn't even think about making a throw. Scherzer would strand the runner in scoring position, Shane Victorino popping out to first.
Making the inning all the more frustrating was all three hits Scherzer allowed in the fith all came off sliders. The two runs the Red Sox scored were the first runs Tigers' starting pitching had allowed in 18 2/3 innings.
The Tigers scratched together a one out threat in the top of the sixth. Fielder smashed a comebacker off Lester for an infield single. Victor Martinez's high, two-hop chopper just got under the glove of Drew for a single, Fielder stopping at second.
Lester faced Tuiasosopo for the third time, making him look silly for a third time by striking him out for a third time. It was up to Pena with two out, Lester wriggling out of trouble on a can of corn to shallow center. But Lester also ended the sixth at 101 pitches.
Scherzer bounced back after the two run fifth with a scoreless bottom of the sixth. But the Tigers' offense was having an immense amount of trouble with Lester, who tossed a 1-2-3 seventh.
Bottom of seven, Scherzer was back in trouble, all of his own doing. With one down, Scherzer walked Drew and hit Ross. Two on, one down and a pitch count over 100, Luke Putkonen and Phil Coke were warming up. There was no need, Scherzer getting out of the jam when Middlebrooks flew out and Victorino popped up.
Unfortunately, the Tigers were still down 2-1 going into the eighth. Fortunately, Lester's night was over. As always, strategy ensued.
Right -hander Brandon Workman entered the game to face Cabrera. One fly out to right later, Workman was pulled for lefty Craig Breslow. Fielder hit a ground ball into the teeth of the shift for the second out. Martinez extended the inning with his second single of the night. Being Danny Worth has been freed from his Triple-A shackles, he made his first appearance with the Tigers this season by pinch running for Martinez.
Infate coming to the plate, BoSox manager John Farrell continued to play the percentages, replacing the left-handed Breslow with a right-hander, Junichi Tazawa.
All of Farrell's stratergerizing paid off when Tazawa struck out Infante to end the inning.
His pitch count at 107, Jim Leyland allowed Scherzer to start the eighth. He didn't get off on the right foot, walking Daniel Nava on four pitches. Dustin Pedroia followed with a hard single to left, Leyland immediately leaving the dugout to end Scherzer's night. That ensured the best Scherzer could do was earn a no-decision, his hopes of winning number 20 dashed.
Now the pitcher of record, Scherzer would need help from both the Tigers' bullpen and offense to remain at just one loss.
David Ortiz due at the plate, Leyland went with Coke, his lefty specialist (he's supposed to be, anyway). After falling behind in the count 1-2, Ortiz hit the ball hard, but Hunter made a nice running catch for he first out.
With one down, the strategy kept coming.
The LOOGY-ized Coke was pulled for Putkonen. One Mike with a scraggy beard replaced another for the Red Sox, Napoli pinch hitting for Carp. Napoli pulled Putkonen's 3-2 breaking ball to left for a single to lead the bases.
In desperate need of a strikeout or popup, Putkonen got the latter when Gomes popped up to Iglesias. Putkonen finished off his Houdini act when Drew bounced to short.
The bullpen having done their job, it was now up to the offense to bail out Scherzer. They would have to do so against Red Sox closer Koji Uehara and his 1.17 ERA. We saw why Uehara entered the game not having allowed a run in 25 straight appearances.
Make it 26 straight, as Uehara was unhittable.
Andy Dirks, who had entered the game as a defensive replacement in the eighth, flew out on the first pitch he saw. Pena struck out swinging, as did Iglesias.
Game over. Your final score is Red Sox 2, Tigers 1.
Scherzer deserved better, the Tigers' offense coming up empty against an excellent Lester. But Scherzer will also be questioning himself, as all three hits he allowed in the Red Sox' three run fifth came off the slider.
But in the Cy Young chase, the loss won't matter, right?
Scherzer pitched well, didn't win and didn't get any run support. That makes him a lock for the Cy Young, right?— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) September 4, 2013
The season and series finale between the Tigers and Red Sox has Rick Porcello (11-7, 4.44 ERA) facing one of the few who could make Alex Rodriguez into a sympathetic figure, Ryan Dempster (7-9, 4.75 ERA). In his last two starts, Porcello beat both the Mets and Indians, allowing five runs and nine hits over 12 2/3 combined innings. After serving a five game suspension thanks to his throwing at ARod on national TV, Demptster allowed five hits and three runs over 6 1/3 innings to beat the White Sox in his first post-suspension start. But the veteran right-hander has been hittable at Fenway this season, as his home ERA of 4.93 attests. Wednesday night's first pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Max Scherzer looking to join the 20 win club, FSD's posted a graphic with the last two 20 game winners for the Tigers. I'm not going to go all Brian Kinney and #KillTheWin, but it is a reminder that pitcher wins tend to be somewhat arbitrary.
For example, on that 1991 team, Frank Tanana had a better ERA, ERA+, H/9, K/9 and nearly the same WHIP, but was only 13-12 to Gullickson's 20-9. Another example is this season, Anibal Sanchez's record is 12-7 despite a league leading 2.61 ERA. Scherzer is having a great season, not necessarily because of the wins. Wins are just a nice byproduct of his excellence.
So how good is Scherzer? Even big time NFL writers are impressed.
I pity any team that has to face Max Scherzer twice in a playoff series in October.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) September 3, 2013
Andy Dirks has been replaced as the Tigers' whipping by Tom Brookens.
I'm trying to remember the last time a team had arguably the best 3b of all time and arguably the worst 3b coach— Matt Dery (@deryNBA) September 3, 2013
But I was told Gene Lamont was the problem.— Matt Snyder (@snyder_matthew) September 3, 2013
Tommy Brookens is the Tommy Brookens of third base coaches.— Rob Visconti (@rvisconti) September 3, 2013
Tommy Brookens, you're making it increasingly hard to defend your aggressiveness.— John Mozena (@johnmoz) September 3, 2013
Go home MLB Gameday, you're drunk.
You can add Johnny Gomes...
...and David Ross...
...to the mountain man beard parade in Beantown.
So glad the Tigers haven't all grown ridiculous beards.— MattinToledo (@MattinToledo) September 4, 2013
Matt Tuiasosopo looked God awful at the plate tonight, striking out three times. But should it be any surprise when his second half slash stats entering tonight are a brutal .203/.288/.254? When Ramon Santiago is out-slugging you, 'nuff said. Some fans might have been sucked in by Tuiasosopo's first half, but the Tigers knew it wasn't going to last.
More Leyland on 2E: "If we were thinking that, it was probably a pipe dream. ... I think he’s just scaling back a little bit to normality."— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) September 4, 2013
Scaling back to "normality" is one thing, but when that normality is struggling to stay above the Mendoza Line and slugging under .300, that's not acceptable. Especially when Andy Dirks is playing so well.
As for Brookens? I guess it could be worse.
#Tigers have had 18 runners thrown out at the plate, 2nd most in AL (BOS, 23), T4 MLB. AL average: 13, MLB average: 14— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) September 4, 2013
Max Scherzer: Scherzer has pitched damn well all season long, but he has also been lucky in just losing one game. He allowed six runs in his last start, but was taken off the hook for a loss when Hunter walked off against the A's. Scherzer's luck shifted to the bad side tonight. He pitched as well as he has all season, yet took the loss. That's baseball.
Luke Putkonen: Pitched out of a messy, one out, bases loaded jam in the eighth.
Jose Iglesias: Has made his previous employers pay with some excellent play over the first two games. Iglesias drove in the Tigers' lone run with a hard hit double.
Tom Brookens: Can someone get Brookens' eyes checked?
Miguel Cabrera: The rust sure showed in striking out in his first at bat and grounding out to leave the bases loaded in the fifth. In a very rare off night, Cabrera was 0-for-4.
Matt Tuiasosopo: Tuiasosopo was 0-for-3 with three strikeouts and looked awful in doing so. He's now hitting .194 since the All-Star break.
TEN 12 COMMENTERS:
|10||Joaquin on Sunshine||46|
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|6||johnmoz||OMG I JUST GOT THE BEST BIRTHDAY GIFT EVER|
Taking part in three double plays, some of the jaw dropping kind, made Jose Iglesias the easy winner in the PotG balloting, taking 71% of the vote.