Entering a series in Boston, it was hard not to think about the 2013 ALCS, in which the Detroit Tigers fell apart at Fenway Park against the Boston Red Sox. People forget, however, that the Tigers did start that series out with a thrilling 1-0 win thanks to pitching. The same was true on Friday night.
Max Scherzer was on the mound, and was the recipient of a modest bit of early run support. Detroit got a single from Ian Kinsler, a walk and a gap shot from Torii Hunter to take a very quick 1-0 lead. When Alex Avila struck out to end the inning, the bases were left loaded, a fact which would prove a bit nerve racking for fans as the night wore on.
It would be the biggest threat Detroit would muster. Scherzer was equally as dominant against the Red Sox through the first three innings carving them up with five strikeouts. In the fourth, the rains came and washed away the game for 47 minutes, but when play resumed, oddly, Scherzer was just as overpowering. He pushed through the fifth and sixth innings, getting a double play and strikeout to finish the inning before the seventh inning stretch.
Detroit's offense sputtered against Jon Lester, and unlike in Baltimore, they weren't able to add any insurance runs. With the margin of error low, Detroit's bullpen rose to the occasion when Scherzer faced trouble in the seventh. Evan Reed, despite balking and hitting a batter, collected a strikeout, allowing Ian Krol to do his job and get A.J. Pierzynski to roll into a double play. Joba Chamberlain then had a stress free eighth.
Top Tiger: Max Scherzer. There's no way the Tigers win the game if Scherzer isn't throwing darts on the mound, and he was. Despite Fenway's bandbox features, Scherzer was next level on Friday night, collecting seven strikeouts and doing what he had to do to get through the game and its trouble spots. Quite simply, nights like Friday are why Scherzer is worth the money. What a comfort for Brad Ausmus to get one run and still have the confidence to win.
Bungling Bengal: Alex Avila. Not a good night for the catcher at the plate. Avila was 0-4 with three strikeouts, and worse yet, he has begun to regress after coming back to earth following a less than ideal start. Now, he's slipped back to .214, and is struggling nearly as much as he was earlier this season.
The Turning Point: Ian Krol induces a clutch double play in the seventh. Clinging to their 1-0 lead, the Tigers showed serious signs of caving in the seventh when Evan Reed plunked Xander Bogaerts and balked to put runners on first and second. Reed got a strikeout, and then Krol won his lefty-lefty match up to get out of the inning. Considering the trouble Boston had all night, the fact that they didn't score was a deal breaker in that situation.
Stat Of The Game: 9, the number of consecutive road wins the Tigers have collected, the most since their championship season of 1984. That's a nice parallel to consider, given it's been 30 years since Detroit's title season.
Quote To Note: "This was big for us. We didn't get off to the start we wanted to but we've been throwing the ball good as of late…to shut this game down was nice for us." —Joe Nathan. The closer has been spotless lately, and his bullpen, which was maligned early, has been getting it done. That was true once again Friday, as they took care of Scherzer's gem and put the finishing touches on the win.
What's Next: The Tigers play game two of their series in Boston Saturday night. John Lackey (5-2) will oppose Rick Porcello (6-1) as Detroit looks for their 10th straight win on the road at 7:10 p.m.
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