The Detroit Tigers returned to Boston for the first time since losing the 2013 ALCS, overcoming both a 47 minute rain delay and the defending World Series champion Red Sox to take 1-0 pitcher's duel at Fenway Park.
The Tigers extended their road winning streak to nine games, their longest since their last World Championship season in 1984.
Max Scherzer had yet to give up a hit before the rain arrived in the fourth. He shrugged off the long delay, returning to toss six plus shutout innings, allowing just three hits and striking out seven. He lowered his AL leading ERA to 1.83 in the process.
Evan Reed and Ian Krol finished off the seventh inning for Scherzer, who pitched to one batter. Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan wrapped up the win, Nathan earning his 11th save of the season. Detroit's bullpen did not allow a hit and retired the last seven Red Sox batters they faced.
Red Sox starter and loser Jon Lester allowed the lone run of the game. He was pulled after five innings and 94 pitches, having allowed one run on four hits, striking out seven. The Red Sox bullpen shut down the Tigers' bats for the remainder of the game, but the Tigers' pen made that one run hold up.
In a game with just nine hits (Detroit six, Boston three), Torii Hunter was the only player with more than one hit, supplying all the offense the Tigers would need with two singles and an RBI. Hunter's single with one out in the top of the first drove home Ian Kinsler with the game's only run. Miguel Cabrera reached base twice on a single and walk. Victor Martinez doubled, the only player for either team with an extra base hit.
Held to a three singles on the night, the Red Sox had only one player reach base more than once - Mike Napoli with a pair of walks.
The Tigers are flying high with a 10-3 record in May, owning the best record in baseball at 25-12, .676. That's the best start of a season for a Detroit team in 30 years. They lead the Al Central by 6 1/2 games over the 20-20 Twins, with eight less games in the loss column. The Tigers raise their road record to 12-4 on the season with the victory in Boston, their road winning streak of nine games the franchise's longest in 30 years.
Facing Red Sox starter Jon Lester, the Tigers were able to scratch out a first inning lead.
Ian Kinsler ripped a one out line shot which nearly decapitated third baseman Will Middlebrooks. He got a glove on the liner, but it was correctly scored an infield singe. Lester pitched around Miguel Cabrera, walking him. After Victor Martinez was punched out looking (proving Martinez is human, after all), Torii Hunter came through with a two out RBI single to left center. Kinsler scored as Cabrera advanced to third.
Lester suddenly lost his command, walking Austin Jackson on four pitches to load the bases, then going to a quick three ball count on Alex Avila.
Everyone but the umpire though Avila had a four pitch walk and an RBI, but Lester got a ridiculously low call for strike one.
Lester ran with the break he had been given, striking out Avila swinging to end the inning, stranding three. Regardless of the fact it should have been a two run lead, the Tigers would happily take a 1-0 advantage while forcing Lester into a 27 pitch inning.
Meanwhile, this was a ball call for Max Scherzer facing Grady Sizemore in the bottom of the first.
So it's going to be like this, huh?
It didn't matter to Scherzer, who shrugged the call off as part of doing business in a 1-2-3 inning.
Top of three, the rain coming down and the Tigers still up 1-0, Martinez snapped Lester's six straight batters retired streak by golfing a liner into the left field corner for a two out, two base hit. Hunter (who owns Lester, entering the night with a career 1.087 OPS against him) followed with his second straight two out single. But thanks to Mike Carp playing a Little League left field at tiny Fenway, Dave Clark
Five wisely held Martinez at third.
It appeared Lester would again walk Jackson, falling behind in the count 3-0. But just as he did versus Avila in the first, Lester got the inning ending K with runners in scoring position.
There was no such drama for Scherzer, who had faced the minimum and was racking up strikeouts like he was stacking so much cordwood. The only Red Sox base runner through three innings was Mike Napoli via second inning walk. He was immediately eliminated thanks to a double play.
A dominant Scherzer struck out the side on just ten pitches in the third, giving him five on the night. Of course, considering the Tigers' luck in Boston, that's when the rain would start to really come down.
The rain was quickly changing from light to heavy, yet the umpiring crew tried to hold off calling for the grounds crew as long as they could. They finally had no choice but the call for the tarp with one down in the foruth.
After a 47 minute delay, Lester finished off a 1-2-3 top of the fourth.
Despite the delay, Scherzer remained in the game as well. Good thing for the Tigers, as Scherzer had plus stuff through three innings.
Scherzer lost the no-no with two down when Davis Ortiz's liner bounced off the short fence in right center on one hop. The weather did give the Tigers a break; Big Papi slipped on the wet first base bag, turning a sure double into a long single.
Ortiz became the first Red Sox to reach second when Schetrzer walked Napoli on four pitches. But A Scherzer inning wasn't going to end without a K, Carp going down swinging on three pitches to end the inning.
Rajai Davis led off the fifth with a walk, swiping his AL leading (at the time) 14th base with two out. That's where he would remain, Lester retiring Martinez on a liner to short left.
Thanks to the delay and an elevated pitch count of 94, Lester was done after five innings. He had allowed just the one run on four hits, striking out seven.
Lester was replaced by right-hander Burke Badenhop, best known to Detroit fans as a throw-in as part of Tigers' fleecing the Marlins of Miguel Cabrera. He's since carved out a career as a journeyman reliever in the bigs, the Red Sox being the fourth team he's played for over the past four seasons.
The Tigers' castoff picked up where Lester left off, tossing a 1-2-3 inning.
Scherzer entered the bottom of the sixth having allowed just the one hit, his pitch count in solid shape at 79. But Scherzer quick found big trouble, giving up a lead off single to David Ross and walking Dustin Pedroia.
Scherzer's pitch count crossed 90 with Grady Sizemore at the plate, command having deserted him. Mid at-bat, Evan Reed started warming up. The count on Sizemore 3-2, Scherzer ended a long at-bat in the best way possible - two for the price of one with a 4-6-3 double play.
The Tigers did not want to mess with Ortiz, being the tying run was a mere 90 feet away. Scherzer issued Big Papi a free pass, preferring to pitch to Napoli. Brad Ausmus' strategerizing worked to perfection. Scherzer ended the sixth with his seventh strikeout of the night, stranding a pair.
Top of seven, Nick Castellanos led off with a base hit, the fifth of the night for the Tigers. But Badenhop and Edward Mujica would combine to end the inning from there. Castellanos thrown out stealing for the final out.
Ian Krol had been warming up along with Reed in the sixth, but Ausmus elected to send Scherzer out to the mound for the bottom of the seventh.
Leading off, Carp lifted a bloop down the left field line. For some unfathomable reason, the speedy Davis decided to pull up short, even though the ball seemed eminently catchable and dropped harmlessly in the grass, nowhere near the wall. (Andy Dirks, get well soon!).
Davis' awful defense ended Scherzer's solid stint after six plus innings and 106 pitches. Reed got the call out of the pen, and immediately threw gas on the smoldering ashes left by Scherzer. Reed balked Carp to second on a failed pickoff attempt, then drilled Xander Bogaerts on the hand with an inside fastball.
Jeff Jones took a mound visit to settle his reliever down, though fans were wishing the visit was more like this...
Jones to the mound. Throat-punches Reed. Goes back to dugout.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 17, 2014
Reed finally stopped screwing around and retired a batter, striking out Jackie Bradley Jr. But Ausmus had seen more than enough, especially with A.J. Pierzynski pinch-hitting for Middlebrooks. Playing the lefty-lefty matchup, Krol got the nod out of the bullpen.
Ausmus had once again pulled the right strings. Krol was out of the inning on two pitches, Pierzynski bouncing into a 6-4-3 double play.
One down in the eighth, Cabrera crushed a line drive to left which likely leaves 29 MLB stadiums. In Boston, it hits high off the Green Monster and goes for a long single. A promising inning ended quickly when Martinez smoked a one-hopper to first which ended in an unassisted double play for Napoli. Cabrera tried to scramble back to the bag, and was tagged out.
The Tigers having successfully bridged the gap to the eighth inning, the man who is having more fun than the rest of us, Joba Chamberlain, was working in his normal setup duty. The burly reliever was quickly back to his other jobs after retiring the Red Sox in order - those jobs being beard growing, sourcing more Zubaz and massaging Danny Worth's thighs.
Junichi Tazawa pitched the ninth for the Red Sox. The Tigers went down in order, unable to increase their 1-0 lead.
But we don't have the Roller Coaster or Papa Grande to kick around anymore. Joe Nathan is a different kind of closer, one who doesn't cause heart attacks on a nightly basis.
Nathan struck out the always dangerous Ortiz for the first out, and it was all downhill for him from there. Nathan recorded the final two outs to wrap up three hitless innings from the Tigers' bullpen.
Your final score is Tigers 1, Red Sox 0.
The happy totals include a nine game road winning streak, a 6 1/2 game lead in the Central, and give notice to a group of ballplayers who are earning redemption...
We may joke about the Tigers bullpen, but they've been lights out on this road trip. They have yet to allow a run in four games and 11.1 IP.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 17, 2014
Game two between the Tigers and Red Sox has Rick Porcello (6-1, 3.22 ERA) taking on Red Sox right-hander John Lackey (5-2, 3.57 ERA).
Lackey has given up two earned runs or less in six of his eight starts and is coming off one of his best appearances of the season. In a 5-2 win over the Rangers in Arlington, Lackey allowed two runs on seven hits, striking out nine over seven innings.
Porcello is off to the best start of his career, having won five consecutive games. He was the winning pitcher in his last appearance, a 4-1 victory over the Orioles, but was pulled after allowing one run in six innings due to tightness in his side.
Saturday night's first pitch is set for 7:10 PM at Fenway Park.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Streaks and stats:
After his two out RBI single in the first, Torii Hunter is hitting .333 (6-for-18) with eight RBI with two down and runners in scoring position.
Victor Martinez has another hitting streak underway, a third inning double extending it to six games. He's hit safely in 17-of-18 games, batting .388 with 12 extra base hits and 16 RBI during the streak.
Rajai Davis' steal of second in the fifth was his eighth straight and 14th of the season. It was the 36th of the season for the Tigers, one more than their entire stolen base total for 2013.
With six shutout innings, Max Scherzer leads the AL with a 1.83 ERA. I can only imagine how happy Scott Boras must be.
The Tigers have beat the Red Sox 1-0 at Fenway Park nine times in regular season play. But the last time was September 10, 1976.
Detroit's road winning streak is extended to nine games, their longest since 1984.They have quite a way to go to catch the World Champions, who won 17 straight road games between April 3 - May 24, 1984
At 25-12, the Tigers have their best 37 game start since, of course, 1984.
Max Scherzer: You have to wonder what might have happened if the weather hadn't interrupted Scherzer's night for almost an hour. He had no-hit stuff before the rains came. But tossing six plus innings with one run allowed to earn the win is a nice consolation prize.
The bullpen: For the fouth time on the trip, the bullpen combines to hold the opposition scoreless. There was some shakiness in the seventh, but Evan Reed, Ian Krol, Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan come through in a big way during a very tight game.
Torii Hunter: In a game with little offense, Hunter supplied the majority of it with two singles and the lone RBI of the night.
Seventh inning stretch ridiculousness: The Red Sox stretched the stretch to the point of delaying the game. There was once a time when the middle off the seventh arrived, Take Me Out to the Ballgame was played and everyone stood up. Took no time at all. Today? With all the silly, over-the-top pomp and circumstance, the middle of the seventh is almost as long as your typical Yankees - Red Sox game.
Bad weather: When a weather delay is in play, you know the Tigers are involved. Mother Nature has deemed it so, being she must hold a grudge against the Tigers. Why that is, only she knows
|Commenter list||Alex Baker, AlohaTigersFan, Bent82, Catherine Slonksnis, ChargingTiger, DJ Screw, DKohn81, DLup, Elfuego51, Emil Sitka, ExTeeBallPitcher, Fielder'sChoice, Grzesio, JWurm, Jacob30, JohnnyWockenfuss, Klesher32, Kwisatz Haderach, LoganB, MSUDersh, NCDee, Parisian Tiger, Rafael Tigers, Rick Chaffee, SanDiegoMick, SpartanHT, Thorpac, Tigerdog1, Verlanderful, Vreeland2, aarone46, ap62, bowling255, dimes5, dishnet34, dominator039, frisbeepilot, gatorboots, jgrubbs, knucklescarbone, loswr86, mrsunshine, praynstayhumble, rock n rye, southkorean1988, stevenyc, subic sailor|
TOP 11 COMMENTERS:
|9||rock n rye||30|
|# Recs||Commenter||Comment Link|
|4||Alex Baker||WHY DON'T YOU CALL THAT A BALL UMP?|
|2||rock n rye||if the Grady AB is was any longer|
|2||rock n rye||"Sure David we'll overturn it...|
GAME 35 PLAYER OF THE GAME:
Al Alburquerque, Ian Krol, Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan combined to shut out the Orioles over the final three innings. They were PotG by committee, taking 61% of the vote.