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Closing Time: Max Scherzer, Tigers shut down Red Sox in 1-0 win

05.16.14 at 11:13 pm ET
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Last October, the Red Sox could muster little offense against a dominant Tigers starting pitching staff. But despite the fact that the ALCS seemed like a nightly flirtation with a Detroit no-hitter, the Sox amassed just enough timely hits and offensive plays to advance to the World Series in six games.

Not so on Friday. In a rematch of the two postseason competitors, the Tigers and starter Max Scherzer claimed a 1-0 victory on a night when the Red Sox had opportunities but could never take advantage of them.

Unlike the ALCS, in which Detroit lost both games started by Scherzer, the Sox could not capitalize on run-scoring situations. They went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and grounded into three double plays. The most significant failure came in the seventh, when the Sox opened the frame by putting two runners on (Mike Carp led off with a single against Scherzer, advanced to second on a balk by reliever Evan Reed, who then drilled Xander Bogaerts with a pitch to put runners on first and second with no outs), but Jackie Bradley Jr. — who seemed a likely candidate to bunt — struck out against Reed.

Rather than sending Will Middlebrooks up to the plate, the Sox elected to use A.J. Pierzynski as a pinch-hitter — a move that backfired when the Tigers responded by bringing lefty reliever Ian Krol into the game, who induced a 6-4-3 double play from Pierzynski.

The defeat dropped the Sox — now 5-10 in one-run games — back below .500. At 20-21, they are 2 1/2 games behind the Orioles, their furthest remove from first place since May 2.

WHAT WENT WRONG FOR THE RED SOX

– Though Scherzer represents a special case, and a particularly dominant weapon against right-handed hitters, Will Middlebrooks‘ struggles against right-handers show few signs of abating. He went 0-for-2 with a punchout against Scherzer, and is now hitting .143/.276/.286 against righties, resulting in the decision by the Red Sox to have A.J. Pierzynski pinch-hit for Middlebrooks with runners on first and second in the bottom of the seventh — something that suggests that Middlebrooks’ role going forward may be less secure than it has been to this point in the season.

– The Red Sox continue to be plagued by double plays. They grounded into three twin-killings on Friday, and have now hit into 41 for the year — second-most in the American League. Two of those double plays came with runners in scoring position, giving the Red Sox 18 such DPs this year — most in the AL.

– The Red Sox fell to 11-15 in games in which right fielder Shane Victorino — sidelined by a sore left knee — has not been in the lineup.

– The Red Sox suffered their third shutout of the year.

WHAT WENT RIGHT FOR THE RED SOX

Jon Lester ably weaved in and out of traffic, working around four hits and three walks in five innings to limit the Tigers to one run, thanks in no small part to seven strikeouts. Though he struggled at times to find the strike zone, throwing just 54 of 94 pitches (57 percent) for strikes, he minimized the damage. He now has struck out at least six batters in each of his nine starts this year, tied for the longest such run of at least six punchouts in his career. The left-hander is averaging 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings.

The brevity of his outing was probably explained by a few factors, among them: His inefficiency, the fact that he had two innings (the first and third) of more than 25 pitches and the 47-minute rain delay that took him off the mound in the top of the fourth inning.

Still, despite all those limitations, he held a potent Tigers lineup in relative check, shutting Detroit down after allowing a first-inning run, and lowered his ERA from 2.75 to 2.67.

David Ortiz broke up Max Scherzer‘s no-hitter by sending a two-out screamer off the wall of the home bullpen in the fourth inning. Ortiz stumbled over the bag, prompting a concerned sprint to the slugger by manager John Farrell and trainer Rick Jaymeson, but remained in the game — a considerable relief to a Sox team whose offense is dependent in no small part upon the scorching slugger. He’s amidst a nine-game hitting streak.

Dustin Pedroia worked a walk, continuing the re-emergence of his contributions as an on-base force. Through 13 games, he hadn’t walked and owned just a .236 OBP. In 27 subsequent games, he’s walked 19 times (against 14 strikeouts) while getting on base at a .398 clip.

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