Max Scherzer had the help of Miguel Cabrera , among others, in his last start as the Detroit Tigers ' offense kept alive his bid to become the second pitcher in history to win 20 of his first 21 decisions in a season.
It's unclear if he'll have that kind of support this time around, as Cabrera's status remains uncertain for Scherzer's second chance to become the first 20-game winner in the majors Tuesday night against the Boston Red Sox.
Scherzer (19-1, 2.90 ERA) is looking to join Roger Clemens in 2001 as the only pitchers to begin a season 20-1. He went 6-0 with a 1.48 ERA in his previous seven starts before allowing six runs - five earned - in five innings Thursday.
The Tigers, though, scored four times in the bottom of the ninth, capped by Torii Hunter 's three-run homer, for a 7-6 win over Oakland that got the right-hander off the hook."He still can go 20-1," Hunter said. "He was jumping up and down when I came upstairs. He hugged me so tight I couldn't breathe. I'm pretty sure he's excited."
Cabrera went 2 for 3 in that contest before leaving with an abdominal strain. He had one at-bat in Friday's 7-2 win over Cleveland before exiting, and he's sat out the last three games while also battling a groin injury.
Prince Fielder moved up to the No. 3 spot in the lineup Monday and drove in a run as the AL Central-leading Tigers (81-57) beat Boston 3-0 in the series opener, their fourth win in five contests."I feel better," Cabrera said after taking batting practice prior to the game.
Scherzer could be in good shape with or without Cabrera as he's 11-0 with a 1.89 ERA in his last 19 road starts, including one in the playoffs.
He went 1-3 with a 9.21 ERA in his previous six starts against Boston before allowing two runs, including a solo homer to David Ortiz , in seven innings of a 10-3 home victory June 22.
Ortiz, 0 for 4 on Monday, is 7 for 13 with three homers and a double off Scherzer.
Jon Lester (12-8, 3.99) has gone 2-2 with a 1.80 ERA over his last five starts, though he allowed three runs and three walks in six innings of a 3-2 home loss to Baltimore on Thursday.
The left-hander is 2-1 with a 4.74 ERA in seven home starts.
"What (his lack of command) did was it cut his night short," manager John Farrell said. "He's been on a good run here."
Lester has gone 1-2 with a 5.26 ERA in six career starts against Detroit. He gave up five runs - three on a homer to Cabrera - in a 10-6 victory June 21.
Cabrera is 10 for 16 with a home run, two doubles, five walks and no strikeouts off Lester, while Hunter is 10 for 19 with three doubles against him.
The Red Sox (82-57) had won seven of eight prior to Monday. Daniel Nava went 3 for 3 for Boston.
Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias , acquired from Boston in the three-team trade that brought Jake Peavy to the Red Sox, went 1 for 3 with a double Monday in his first game against his former team. Iglesias has gone 6 for 13 during a four-game hitting streak.
|August 24, 2013||Jose Iglesias||Day-to-Day||Sore left elbow|
|August 17, 2013||Omar Infante||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower back stiffness|
|August 11, 2013||Alex Avila||7-Day DL||Concussion|
|August 11, 2013||Alex Avila||15-Day DL||Concussion|
|July 31, 2013||Miguel Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Strained lower abdomen|
|July 31, 2013||Luis Marte||60-Day DL||Recovery from right shoulder surgery|
|Boston Red Sox|
|September 01, 2013||Shane Victorino||Day-to-Day||Left hip contusion|
|August 29, 2013||Mike Carp||Day-to-Day||Left shoulder irritation|
|August 17, 2013||Mike Napoli||Day-to-Day||Sore left foot|
|August 08, 2013||Brandon Snyder||15-Day DL||Ulnar neuritis, right elbow|
|August 08, 2013||Brandon Snyder||15-Day DL||Ulnar neuritis, right elbow|
|August 05, 2013||Matt Thornton||15-Day DL||Strained right oblique|
BOSTON (AP) -- The Detroit Tigers have the best pitcher in the American League and the best hitter in baseball.
Jon Lester was better than both.
Boston's ace outdueled Max Scherzer and retired Miguel Cabrera with the bases loaded as the Boston Red Sox beat Detroit 2-1 on Tuesday night in a well-played game between two division leaders.
It ended the Tigers' right-hander's chance to become just the second pitcher to open a season with a 20-1 record.
"We all know who we're facing tonight and what he's done this season," Lester said, "but I can't worry about Max Scherzer . I have to worry about the other nine guys in the lineup."
The Tigers lead the AL in hitting and Cabrera leads all batters with a .355 average.
So the Red Sox were in big trouble when he came up with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning with Detroit leading 1-0.
Lester's first two pitches were balls, but he recovered to get Cabrera to ground to shortstop Stephen Drew for a forceout at second base.
"The key to the game," Red Sox manager John Farrell said.
"Obviously, I don't want to be in that situation with him up," Lester said, "the best hitter on the planet. You're trying to really minimize damage."
Boston scored on Will Middlebrooks ' two-run single in the fifth after Detroit's Jose Iglesias doubled in a run in the second.
Koji Uehara pitched the ninth for his 17th save in 20 opportunities and extended his scoreless streak to 25 innings as Boston won for the eighth time in 10 games.
Lester (13-8) lowered his ERA to 1.71 in his past six starts. He allowed one earned run and eight hits with a season-high nine strikeouts and no walks.
Scherzer (19-2), who won his first 13 decisions, lost for the first time since July 13 when the Texas Rangers beat him 7-1.
"For me, it's a team thing," he said. "If I win 20, it's a team achievement."
Scherzer can thank his hitters for many of those wins. The 7.17 runs per nine innings they scored for him going into his 28th start on Tuesday were the most among all AL pitchers.
But Lester shut them down.
"He was totally different than the first time we faced him," Torii Hunter said. "He was the Jon Lester of old."
Lester struggled for nearly two months before the All-Star game. In one game, he allowed five runs in 5 2-3 innings against the Tigers. But he's 5-2 since the break.
"It was a well-pitched game on both sides," Farrell said. "We didn't have anything going against Scherzer until the two-out base hit by Will for the two RBIs. Jon was very good when we needed it."
Roger Clemens is the only pitcher to start off at 20-1 and ended up 20-3 with the New York Yankees in 2001. Rube Marquard was the only other pitcher with a 19-1 record, but lost his next decision in 1912 with the New York Giants.
The Tigers lost for the second time in six games despite the return of Cabrera, who missed three games with abdominal and groin problems. He went 0 for 4.
Scherzer rebounded from his worst start of the season and allowed two runs and five hits with eight strikeouts and three walks before leaving with runners at first and second and no outs in the eighth.
He struck out the side in the first, allowed a single in the second and then pitched two perfect innings.
He started the fifth by striking out Mike Carp before Jonny Gomes singled. Stephen Drew followed with a ground-rule double that went into Boston's bullpen in right-center field on one hop. After David Ross struck out, Middlebrooks put Boston ahead 2-1 with a single to center on a first-pitch slider.
"You may get one good pitch in an at-bat to hit (against Scherzer)," Middlebrooks said. "You can't miss it."
The Tigers got base runners against Lester in four of the first six innings, but he worked out of three of those jams.
In the second, Omar Infante singled and reached third on a two-out single by Brayan Pena . Iglesias then lined a double that drove in Infante, but Pena was thrown out at home.
Lester retired the next seven batters, four on strikeouts, before Pena reached first on a fielding error by third baseman Middlebrooks with one out in the fifth. Iglesias struck out before singles by Austin Jackson and Hunter loaded the bases. But Lester retired Cabrera.
Detroit threatened again in the sixth when Prince Fielder singled and took second on a one-out single by Infante. But Lester struck out Matt Tuiasosopo for the third time and retired Pena on a fly out.
Scherzer "pitched terrific. Early on I thought he was as sharp as he's been all year," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Tonight, Lester pitched better."
NOTES: Boston starters have allowed three runs or fewer in 13 of its past 14 games. ... Detroit's Victor Martinez extended his hitting streak to 10 games with a single in the eighth. ... Red Sox CF Jacoby Ellsbury missed the game with a sore thumb. ... Rick Porcello (11-7) pitches for Detroit against Ryan Dempster (7-9) in the finale of the three-game series on Wednesday night.