Jon Lester and Max Scherzer will battle Friday as the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers kick off a three-game series at Fenway Park.
Two good pitchers. Two good teams. One historic ballpark.
The intrigue of Friday’s Lester-Scherzer showdown extends beyond the matchup, though. The aces might provide a preview of bigger things to come later this season — think October — and each hurler definitely has a little extra incentive to outduel his opponent given that free agency is looming for each.
“This is two premium guys, much like the game over in Chicago (on April 17) when Jon and (White Sox ace) Chris Sale hooked up,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said before Friday’s clash. “We’ve got a lot of recent history from last September and October with Scherzer — the way he pitched against us, how good he is (and) how well he’s been pitching this year. We’ve got our hands full this entire series.”
Lester and Scherzer each can claim to be a legitimate front-line starter. Lester has the World Series accolades to back it up, whereas Scherzer established himself as one of baseball’s top dogs last season by winning the 2013 American League Cy Young. Each pitcher should be in line for a big payday, whether it’s with his current team or with another club after hitting the open market.
Scherzer reportedly rejected a six-year, $144 million contract offer from the Tigers over the offseason. It immediately raised eyebrows, and it also caused folks to look toward Lester for a reaction.
“I’m not him. I don’t ever want to talk bad upon anybody. That’s his decision,” Lester said during spring training. “If he comes in, and he takes six years for $40 million, that’s his decision. I’m not going to bad mouth anybody. They have their own beliefs, their own mindset, their own representation, and so I mean personally, if that’s me, that’s hard to walk away from. That’s hard to walk away from.”
Lester and Scherzer aren’t exactly on the same level, but their situations absolutely are intertwined. Lester and Scherzer figure to be the top two pitchers available in free agency after this season if extensions aren’t worked out before then, and it’s reasonable to think the first shoe that drops will, in some way, impact the second shoe. Everything — as it pertains to each pitcher’s performance, health, situation, etc. — that happens between now and each pitcher’s next contract directly affects one’s counterpart.
It might be best to just sit back and enjoy Friday — just as Red Sox fans did Sept. 3, 2013, when Lester outdueled Scherzer and solidified himself as Boston’s ace before the playoffs — but when the dust settles after the game, it won’t be the end of Lester and Scherzer being tossed around in the same sentence.
Two seasons. Two contracts. One similar destination.