Originally posted on NESN.com  |  Last updated 9/4/13
Though most players avoided admitting it, Tuesday night’s game felt like postseason baseball at Fenway Park. The matchup featured not only the best two teams in the American League in the Red Sox and Tigers, but also the star of each team’s respective pitching staff. It has been said that this year’s edition of the Boston Red Sox is built for the regular season, but ill-suited for the playoffs. The Red Sox’ potent offense and impressive depth allow them to weather the seven-month grind and take advantage of other club’s soft spots, but they have been known to sputter when facing elite arms. Philadelphia’s Cliff Lee has shut down the Boston bats this season. As have Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez and Kansas City’s James Shields. Tigers ace Max Scherzer, a near mortal lock to win the Cy Young in the AL, is having a better year than any of those All-Stars, and he entered Tuesday’s game looking to become just the second pitcher in major league history to start a season 20-1. Scherzer pitched exactly as advertised in the early going, striking out five of the first 10 batters he faced and allowing just one man to reach — Jonny Gomes on an infield single — through the first four innings. But through those four frames, Detroit was able to gain only a 1-0 advantage. Though he was not as overpowering as Scherzer, Jon Lester matched the Tigers right-hander nearly step for step. Lester allowed the first runner of the game to reach third base, but he retired the next three batters to strand him there. He then allowed Detroit’s first — and only — run an inning later, on a line-drive double courtesy of former teammate Jose Iglesias, but some boneheaded baserunning by catcher Brayan Pena prevented the Tigers from inflicting further damage. Lester followed that up by breezing through the third and fourth before escaping a bases-loaded jam in the fifth. Up to that point, Scherzer had looked untouchable, needing a mere 43 pitches to get through the first four innings. His foundation began to crack in the fifth, though. A base hit by Gomes (one pitch after a disputed foul-ball call down the third base line) and a double by Stephen Drew put a pair of men in scoring position with one out. After Scherzer imposed his will on David Ross, striking him out on three pitches, Will Middlebrooks – who had struck out all four times he had faced Scherzer previously, including once earlier in the game — lined the first pitch he saw up the middle for a two-run single. Those two runs proved to be the difference in the contest, as both offenses were rendered scoreless for the remainder of the night. “It was huge,” Ross said of Middlebrooks’ base hit. “Especially after I had just struck out on three pitches. [With runners on] second and third, against a guy like that, you’re not getting too many opportunities, and we didn’t the rest of the night. [Scherzer] had a low pitch count, just all the makings of a complete-game shutout, to be honest with you. He did a great job of picking me up.” Wins are far from expected when facing a hurler of Scherzer’s caliber, but they are necessary in October. A team cannot succeed in the playoffs simply by feasting on third, fourth and fifth starters, as a seven-game series almost always features four games against an opponent’s top pairing. Though they lack a rock-solid 1-2 tandem (there’s no Pedro Martinez-Curt Schilling buzzsaw on this year’s club), the Red Sox proved Tuesday that they can win a battle of No. 1 starters in the closest thing to playoff ball we’ve seen this season. It’s only one game, but this was a big win. “It means more than you guys know,” Middlebrooks said with a smile after the game. “I’m more excited than I’m showing.” Filed under: Boston Red Sox, Top Stories, Zack Cox
MORE FROM YARDBARKER

Catholic priest in Philly wears underdog mask while leading mass

Trae Young makes defender fall down with sick move, drains jumper

Josh Donaldson still hoping for long-term offer from Blue Jays

Titans have hired Mike Vrabel as head coach

Johnny Manziel sells out entire stock of 'Comeback$ZN' merchandise in under 48 hours

LIKE WHAT YOU SEE?
GET THE DAILY NEWSLETTER:

OSU coach Mike Boynton has high praise for Trae Young

NFL says overseas troops can watch playoff games despite shutdown

Tyler Hilinski's younger brother shares emotional message on Twitter

Erik Karlsson trade rumors are starting to heat up again

Seahawks reportedly interested in Jim Zorn reunion

Terence Newman does not rule out return even if Vikings win title

Sports & Politics Intersect: Nassar's victims put USA Gymnastics, MSU on trial

The 'One of these things is not like the other' quiz

Top 25 times franchise players have changed scenes in MLB

The best college hoops games to watch down the stretch

NHL Weekender: Kings, Leafs heading in the wrong direction

NFL Championship Weekend Predictions: History will be made in the NFC

Devin Booker is expanding his game beyond getting buckets

Greatest NFL Conference Championship moments ever

Top 10 X-factors for Conference Championship Games

Case Keenum deserves better than the also-ran description

Best performances in the history of NFL Conference Championship games

15 underrated NBA players having tremendous seasons

MLB News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Yardbarker Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.

Sports & Politics Intersect: Nassar's victims put USA Gymnastics, MSU on trial

Top 25 times franchise players have changed scenes in MLB

The 'One of these things is not like the other' quiz

The best college hoops games to watch down the stretch

NHL Weekender: Kings, Leafs heading in the wrong direction

The 'Baby I'm a (All-)Star' quiz

Devin Booker is expanding his game beyond getting buckets

Ranking baseball's GMs entering the 2018 season

NFL Referee Hotline Bling: The Saints miss an important long-distance call

Johnny Gaudreau, Flames hope layoff won't cool them down

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Help
Follow Yardbarker