Before Friday night’s series opener against the Tigers at Fenway Park, manager John Farrell said a key to turning his team’s fortunes at home would be to take advantage of the ancient park, use the crowd to its advantage, and get on the scoreboard first.
“A lot that has gone into our record at home is the fact that we’ve fallen behind early in the game,” Farrell said.
Instead, Jon Lester allowed the Tigers to get on the board first with a run in the first inning that stood as the final score, 1-0.
The loss drops the Sox back below .500, at 20-21, and 10-12 at home.
Lester went five innings, giving up one run on four hits and three walks with seven strikeouts. He threw 94 pitches, 54 for strikes. He took the loss, falling to 4-5 as his ERA fell from 2.75 to 2.67.
Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer earned the win, going six innings (plus one batter in the seventh), giving up three hits and four walks with seven strikeouts. He improved to 6-1 as his ERA fell from 2.04 to 1.83. He has not lost since April 13, at San Diego.
The Tigers scored with two outs in the first when Torii Hunter’s single scored Ian Kinsler from second.
The Sox best scoring opportunity came in seventh. After giving up a lead-off single to Mike Carp, Scherzer was done, bringing in right-hander Evan Reed, who balked Carp to second before hitting Xander Bogaerts in the left wrist with a pitch. That brought Jackie Bradley to the plate, but rather than attempting a bunt, Bradley struck out. A.J. Pierzynski pinch-hit for Will Middlebrooks but grounded into a double play (one of three for the Sox in the game) to end the inning.
Lester and Scherzer both returned to the mound after a 47-minute rain delay with one out in the top of the fourth inning.
Joe Nathan picked up his 11th save with a perfect ninth inning
• The Red Sox got another good pitching performance, with Lester giving up just one run and the bullpen throwing four scoreless innings, allowing two hits with no walks and three strikeouts.
• With 27 pitches in the first and 26 in the third, Lester’s pitch count rose rapidly. Combined with a 47-minute rain delay in the top of the fourth, he was able to go just five innings, his second-shortest outing of the season.
• The Sox had several opportunities to drive in runs but could do nothing with them. They went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position, and left five runners on base. Grounding into three double plays limited scoring opportunities. They had the lead-off batter on base in the second, sixth and seventh but double plays wiped out two.
• Xander Bogaerts, Bradley, and Middlebrooks combined to go 0-for-7 with four strikeouts.
• Max Scherzer went six scoreless innings giving up three hits with four walks and seven strikeouts. He has won six straight decisions after starting the season with two no-decisions then a loss.
• Joe Nathan earned his 11th save. In his last 10 games, spanning 10 innings, he has not allowed a run.
• David Ortiz went 1-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout. His single in the fourth with two outs was the Sox’ first hit of the game and also extended his hitting streak to a season-high nine games. In that stretch he is batting .500, going 18-for-36. He was given an intentional walk in the eighth, the sixth time this season he has received an intentional walk.
• The Sox continue to struggle when their opponent scores first, falling to 5-17 in those games. They also fell to 5-10 in one-run games.
AROUND THE BASES:
• This was the Sox’ third shutout loss of the season and first 1-0 loss since June 28, 2012 at Seattle. It was their first loss to the Tigers at Fenway since Game 1 of the ALCS, also by a 1-0 score.
• The bullpen’s ERA is now 3.09, giving up 44 earned runs over 128 1/3 innings.
• This was the second time in Lester’s last three starts he has allowed one or no run.
• With seven strikeouts Lester has recorded at least six K’s in all nine starts this season, tying the longest such streak of his career, which he also accomplished in 2010. In the last 100 years, only Pedro Martinez has as many consecutive games with six or more strikeouts to begin a season – 29 games in 2000, 15 in 1999, 14 in 2001, and nine in 1998.
• Mike Napoli has reached base in 36 of 38 games this season, for a .388 on-base percentage.
• Burke Badenhop has not allowed a run in his last 16 innings, spanning 12 games since April 21.
• Bradley has struck out 42 times in 125 at-bats (33.6 percent), Bogaerts 38 times in 138 at-bats (27.5 percent), and Middlebrooks 24 in 72 at-bats (33.3 percent).
• Tests on Shane Victorino’s left knee revealed swelling. He will be re-examined on Saturday. Farrell said he doesn’t expect Victorino to need a DL stint.
• Bogaerts was hit in the hand by a pitch from Evan Reed in the seventh. Farrell said he should be able to play Saturday.
• Ian Kinsler’s single in the first inning went off Middlebrooks right index finger. He stayed in the game.
The Sox and Tigers continue their series at Fenway on Saturday at 7:10 p.m. John Lackey (5-2, 3.57) will be opposed by Tigers right-hander Rick Porcello (6-1, 3.22).
This will be Lackey’s ninth start. He has recorded six quality starts, and has the most run support of all Sox starters, at 5.26.
In 12 career starts against the Tigers, he is 6-3 with a 3.86 ERA, giving up 35 earned runs in 81 2/3 innings. He faced the Detroit twice last season, going 0-1 with a 3.14 ERA, allowing five earned runs in 14 1/3 innings.
Keep an eye on Victorino. He was out of the lineup on Thursday and Friday with an ailing left knee.