Marquee matchups tend to fuel Jon Lester more than he likes to let on. With Max Scherzer bringing his league-leading 19 wins to the mound for the Tigers, Lester was more than ready for a duel.
In seven innings of work, Lester struck out nine and gave up just one run. The Red Sox offense did just enough to make his effort stand up in a 2-1 win.
Will Middlebrooks’s two-run single in the fifth was all the support Lester needed to pick up his 13 win of the season.
Koji Uehara came on in the ninth to close the door for the Sox, who improved to 83-57.
End of the eighth, Red Sox 2, Tigers 1: Brandon Workman, Craig Breslow and Junichi Tazawa combined to hang a crucial ‘0’ up, building a bridge for Koji Uehara in the ninth.
The Sox had a chance to add some insurance with the bases loaded and one out but couldn’t cash in.
End of the seventh, Red Sox 2, Tigers 1: After bouncing one to short and striking out swatting at a 97-mph fastball, David Ross was just trying to figure out a way to get on base.
This was just his fourth start since being coming off the 60-day concussion disabled list on Aug. 19, and even with a 2-for 3 game against the White Sox over the weekend, he was just 3 for 13 in those games.
That said, getting beaned high in the left shoulder by a 94-mph fastball probably wasn’t the way he wanted to get on.
Tigers catcher Brayan Martinez hopped up out of his crouch and immediately wrapped his arms around Ross. It seemed like he was practically apologizing as much as he was trying to be a peace-keeper.
John Farrell came out with the trainers to check Ross out as he walked slowly toward first.
Farrell said before the game that he was planning on giving Jarrod Saltalamacchia a few days rest because of lower back soreness.
Ross stayed in the game and seemed fine, but there’s no telling at the moment if that’ll change Farrell’s plans.
End of the sixth, Red Sox 2, Tigers 1: A seven-pitch battle with Prince Fielder ended with Jon Lester taking a comebacker off his left side.
When John Farrell rushed out of the dugout with trainers behind him, Lester shot them a glare, waved them back and said, “I’m fine.”
He got Victor Martinez to fly out. Then, after giving up a single to Omar Infante, he struck out Matt Tuiasosopo for the third time tonightand got Brayan Pena to fly out to end the inning.
End of the fifth, Red Sox 2, Tigers 1: The Red Sox had just took the field for BP and Will Middlebrooks left pant leg was already smudged from the thigh down with dirt.
He had gotten some early work in.
It’s been a weird year for him. When he kicks around a ground ball at third that allows Brayan Pena to reach on an error (as he did in the top of the fifth), it’s hard to the work paying off.
Not that it stops him.
He came back in the bottom of the inning with Jonny Gomes on third and Stephen Drew on second and ripped a single that brought both of them around to give the Sox the lead.
Coming in, Middlebrroks was hitting .323 with two homers and seven since being recalled last month. He now has hits in 16 of his 20 games with a plate appearance since coming back.
End of the fourth, Tigers 1, Red Sox 0: Scherzer threw four pitches.
Four pitches to a Red Sox team that preaches “grinding out and bats and driving pitch up counts.”
So far tonight, he’s thrown 43 altogether, 30 for strikes and the Sox are having a hard time figuring him out.
He still hasn’t thrown the curveball that Farrell praised pregame.
End of the third, Tigers 1, Red Sox 0: Although the standard line is that it doesn’t matter who he’s pitching against, occasionally Jon Lester will acknowledge that it does.
The fact that it’s marquee matchup doesn’t dial up the intensity nearly as much as the fact that he knows going in that runs are going to be scarce.
Earlier in the season, when he faced Rangers supernova Yu Darvish, Lester said, “You’re not pitching against him. At the same time, you know who’s on the other side.”
He pitched six innings, struck out seven and gave up just three runs on a night when Darvish struck out 14.
Obviously, with Scherzer on the mound tonight, it was going to be another one of those kinds of duels for Lester and he’s responding.
Hestruck out the side in the fourth, catching Austin Jackson staring at a 93-mph fastball, getting Torii Hunter to whiff at an 80 mph curve and catching Miguel Cabrera with the same thing.
After watching John Lackey, give just three runs in seven innings last night and leave with a loss, Lester has to know his margin for error is pretty slim.
End of the second, Tigers 1, Red Sox 0: Before the game, Jose Iglesias talked one more time with reporters.
He didn’t say anything he hadn’t said already. Just that he misses playing for the Red Sox but he’s happy being a Tiger.
He’s played well Monday, going 1 for 3 and turning three double plays, and he’s back at it tonight, coming through with an RBI double to put the Tigers on the board first. He’s 6 for 13 in his past four games.
Meanwhile, Jonny Gomes almost landed himself on the Not Top 10. He sent a ground ball howling down the third base line, but Miguel Cabrera (bad abdominal and all) made a diving grab and flung it across the infield.
The throw pulled Prince Fielder off the ball toward the outfield, but he still had a shot at Gomes.
Because Gomes sprinted through the bag by three, maybe four steps, seemingly turning for second, before realizing it was a good idea to retreat.
The Sox couldn’t make anything out of Gomes’ two-out single. Scherzer’s retired six of the seven batters he’s faced so far.
End of the first, Red Sox 0, Tigers 0: If he wasn’t puzzling the Sox with his slider, Max Scherzer just overpowered them with his fastball.
He only needed 13 pitches to strike out the side. Bending a slider by Shane Victorino and pumping 95- and 96-mile per-hour fastballs by Daniel Nava and Dustin Pedroia (Pedroia’s was right over the middle of the plate).
Meanwhile, Jon Lester spent 17 pitches on the first two batters he saw. Austin Jackson worked him for eight before launching a stand-up double off the Wall to lead off the night. Torii Hunter squeezed nine more out of him before popping up to Mike Carp in foul territory.
Pregame: When the Sox saw Max Scherzer back in June, he was already 10 wins into a season that’s seen him win 19 so far.
The scary part is that Sox manager John Farrell said Scherzer’s gotten better since then.
He’s cut his walks down, he’s using his curveball to fool hitters and he can still reach back and throw his fastball with high velocity.
He’s second in the AL with 201 strikeouts and he’s holding opponents to 6.28 hits per nine innings and a .196 average against him.
“He’s certainly matured a lot as a pitcher,” Farrell said. “Things have certainly worked out for him this year,” Farrell said. ” We’re hopeful to try as game plan that maybe others haven’t yet.