It was easy to mistake tonight's 2-1 win for a playoff game at Fenway. (Yes, the temperature is on the cooler side, but that wasn't why.)
After nearly a month of average to below-average competition in August, the Sox' schedule has gotten harder and the team isn't missing a beat. Playing a legitimate World Series contender in the Tigers, led by their ace (sorry, Justin) in Max Scherzer, the Sox coaxed yet another good start out of Jon Lester, who is a new man since the All-Star break.
Lester went seven strong, striking out nine Tigers and yielding just one run (to an RBI single by Jose Iglesias, natch). Lester didn't walk a batter, throwing 81 of his 111 pitches for strikes. He was in just one real jam, fending off a two-out, bases-loaded Miguel Cabrera at bat in the 5th. He's getting into shape just in time for the playoff push. He can be frustrating at times, but if we keep getting this effort, we can't complain.
John Farrell then managed the late innings like it was October. With the middle of the lineup due up in the 8th leading 2-1, Farrell didn't try to bleed Lester, or get any kind of efficiency out of his relievers. He went righty-lefty-righty in the pen to retire Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder, and Omar Infante (with old friend Victor Martinez sneaking in a meaningless single). Koji pulled a Koji in the 9th and the Sox got the victory.
Will Middlebrooks was responsible for the two Sox runs, driving in Jonny Gomes and Stephen Drew on a first-pitch single in the 5th. Sometimes his lack of patience pays off.
The now hold a six-game lead over Tampa, who is in LA taking on the Angels tonight.