Published January 13, 2015
(SportsNetwork.com) - Max Scherzer has a tough act to follow.
The Detroit Tigers turn to baseball's lone 20-game winner this season on Sunday night as they try to leave Boston with a 2-0 edge over the Red Sox in the best-of-seven American League Championship Series.
Scherzer topped the majors with a 21-3 record over 32 starts this past regular season, posting a 2.90 earned run average. He followed up with a pair of victories over Oakland in the ALDS, winning a Game 1 start before notching a win in relief last Tuesday in Game 4 to force a final fifth game in the set.
The right-hander threw seven innings of two-run ball with 11 strikeouts to open the series, then yielded a run over two innings in relief.
Scherzer, who has a lifetime postseason ERA of 3.64, doesn't expect the relief appearance to impact him tonight.
"Oh, not at all. I'm on normal rest, pitching Game 2, so I'm fully ready to go. Arm feels good. My relief appearance was just needed," he said.
Scherzer, 29, has posted a 7.02 ERA over eight career meetings with the Red Sox, but split two starts versus them this year with a solid 2.57 ERA.
While Scherzer led baseball in wins, teammate Anibal Sanchez led the American League in earned run average and he kept the Red Sox off the board in a near no-hitter on Saturday night as the Tigers took Game 1 by a 1-0 score, holding Boston to just a single hit.
Despite the shutout loss, Boston worked Sanchez as he threw 116 pitches over six scoreless innings. Sanchez walked six and struck out 12.
Al Alburquerque, Jose Veras and Drew Smyly followed with two hitless innings and Joaquin Benoit came on in the ninth to protect the 1-0 lead and the no- hitter.
Benoit struck out Mike Napoli to begin the frame before Daniel Nava punched a single into center field.
"I wasn't thinking anything about the no-hitter at that point," Nava said of his final at-bat. "It was still a 1-0 game. We had been battling all night and hadn't gotten anything to fall. Fortunately, I got that one to fall."
The Red Sox had the tying run on base despite having just gotten their first hit, but Benoit settled down to get Stephen Drew to fly out before an infield popout by Xander Bogaerts ended the game.
"Besides the no-hitter, the most important thing is to win," said Sanchez. "Especially in this series. In a short series, winning is key to getting ahead."
Jhonny Peralta plated the game's only run in the sixth, while Sanchez, Alburquerque, Veras, Smyly and Benoit racked up a franchise-record 17 strikeouts.
Jon Lester was a hard-luck loser, giving up just one run on six hits and a walk over 6 1/3 frames for the Red Sox, who were shut out in a postseason game at home for the first time since Game 5 of the 1918 World Series.
Boston will now try to split the first two games of this series at home before heading to Detroit for Game 3 on Tuesday.
"I think we'll be ready to go (Sunday) night. If you haven't been around us this year, we have the ability to put tonight behind us and we'll be ready to go," said Boston manager John Farrell, who turns to Clay Buchholz in Game 2.
The 29-year-old righty was limited to just 16 starts this season due to a neck and shoulder issue, but still went 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA in 16 starts. He missed three months between June 8-Sept 10, going 3-1 with a 1.88 ERA in four starts to close the regular season.
"In the starts that he's made since coming off the DL, there's still been a little bit of a building component, building his stamina and endurance inside of a given day," said Farrell of his starter. "But the touch and feel to secondary pitches are consistent to pre-injury.
"And I think coming out of particularly the last three starts, where we've been able to get him over a hundred, 110 pitches on each of those outings, I think he comes away with greater confidence on the physical side of things."
Buchholz made the second start of his postseason career last Monday, getting the start in Game 3 versus Tampa Bay. He did not factor into a 5-4 loss, giving up three runs on seven hits and three walks over six innings.
He did not face the Tigers this year, and is 2-1 with a 3.58 ERA in eight lifetime meetings.
Boston and Detroit have been playing one another since 1901, but amazingly this is the first postseason matchup between the charter AL clubs
The Tigers were 4-3 against the Red Sox in 2013, winning three of four at Comerica Park in June and dropping two of three at Fenway in September.