Max Scherzer wasn't at his best his last time out, leaving Thursday's outing against the A's in line for his second loss. But he still has a chance to make history Tuesday.
Torii Hunter's walk-off homer capped Detroit's comeback against Oakland on Thursday, avoiding a series sweep and giving Scherzer a no-decision to preserve his 19-1 record. When he and the Tigers face the Red Sox on Tuesday night, Scherzer will be looking to become just the second pitcher in Major League history to open a season with a 20-1 record, joining Roger Clemens in 2001.
"This is a team thing. In the grand scheme of things, I probably should have taken the loss. Torii bailed me out," said Scherzer, whose ERA climbed to 2.90. "I mean, it is what it is. Obviously it's an accomplishment, but I don't know how much that dictates how well you pitch."
As well as he's pitched this season, he is going to have to rebound from Thursday's rough performance. He gave up a season-high six runs (five earned) on eight hits in only five innings. On the bright side, however, Scherzer has reversed what had been a tough stretch against Boston for the Tigers by winning two of their last three meetings.
The right-hander threw seven innings of two-run ball at Comerica Park on June 22, when the Tigers beat the Red Sox, 10-3.
On the other side, Boston lefty Jon Lester doesn't have a great history with Detroit. The Tigers have given him fits in the past -- their current hitters have combined for a career .413 average and 1.081 OPS in 124 plate appearances against Lester -- and he owns a 5.26 ERA in six starts against Detroit.
The good news for Lester, however, is that he's pitched well as of late. He hasn't allowed more than three earned runs in five straight starts, a streak of five straight quality outings during which he's posted a 1.80 ERA over 35 innings. Opponents have hit just .198 against him during that span.
Lester's last start might have been his worst during this stretch, as he threw only 67 of 112 pitches for strikes over six innings and suffered a loss to the Orioles. Still, he held one of the Majors' best offenses to only three runs over six innings.
"I felt like I had a pretty good fastball," Lester said Thursday, "just not a lot of command of really anything."
"What it did was it cut his night short," added Red Sox manager John Farrell. "The last couple times out it's been eight, seven innings. He's been on a good run here."
Tigers: Cabrera could return Wednesday; Jackson back
• Miguel Cabrera was once again out of the lineup Monday, but the show he put on during batting practice Monday morning may indicate that he's not that far off. Cabrera hit with the team and didn't look limited. If he continues to head in the right direction Tuesday, he could be back in the starting lineup Wednesday.
Detroit was able to put Austin Jackson back in the leadoff spot Monday after he sat out Sunday following a Saturday night collision with the center-field wall at Comerica Park.
• The Tigers recalled right-hander Luke Putkonen on Monday after optioning him to Class A Lakeland on Saturday, though he didn't have to report there. Detroit will add Jeremy Bonderman, Jose Alvarez and Bryan Holaday from Triple-A Toledo on Tuesday.
Red Sox: Ellsbury, Victorino return to lineup
• Shane Victorino, who left Sunday's game with a hip contusion, and Jacoby Ellsbury, who exited early after aggravating a left thumb injury, were back in Boston's lineup Monday afternoon. Ellsbury went 0-for-3 with a walk and a strikeout from the leadoff spot, while Victorino finished 1-for-3.
Farrell said it's fair to expect that just about everyone will be playing through minor dings down the stretch, with those two the latest examples.
"Most everyday player is dealing with something," Farrell said. "Everyone here recognizes the situation we're in and the need to answer the bell every day. ... I think that probably stems from when their teammate looks them in the eye and asks, 'Are they ready to go today?' I think it's hard to tell your teammate 'No' than it would be maybe me. That's one of the characteristics of this team in that there is accountability to one another in here."
• Clay Buchholz is set to make his third rehab start Wednesday for Triple-A Pawtucket in Game 1 of the Governors' Cup playoffs. That could change, however, as his wife, Lindsay, is scheduled to give birth to the couple's second child that day. Farrell said the Red Sox are "flexible enough both here and at Pawtucket that we can adjust by a day without disrupting any of their plans."
• With a win Tuesday, the Tigers can claim the series victory and take hold of the best record in the American League. The two clubs will enter the night even in the loss column, with Detroit one win behind Boston.
• Red Sox closer Koji Uehara has a streak of 24 consecutive scoreless innings, the second-longest active run in all of baseball.