BOSTON — Mother Nature simply delayed the inevitable.
Torii Hunter’s RBI single off Jon Lester in the first inning of Friday’s series opener at Fenway Park represented the game’s only run. Max Scherzer tossed six shutout innings as the Detroit Tigers earned a 1-0 win over the Boston Red Sox, who again failed to produce a timely hit despite creating several scoring chances.
“To think that one run in the first inning was going to be the difference in this one, we probably didn’t anticipate that,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said after Friday’s loss. “But well-pitched game on both sides.”
Scherzer was sharp out of the chute, holding the Red Sox hitless through his first 3 2/3 innings. The right-hander kept Boston off-balance by featuring his entire arsenal early and often, and he looked every bit like the pitcher who won the American League Cy Young last season.
Not even a 47-minute rain delay in the top of the fourth inning could knock Scherzer and Co. off track despite Boston threatening in the sixth and seventh innings. The Red Sox went 0-for-5 with runners in scoring position and left five men on base — an all-too-familiar sight for a team that featured one of baseball’s most potent and most opportunistic offenses last season en route to a World Series title.
“Once again, it’s a consistent story where the opportunities are created,” Farrell said. “And as much as we continue to put trust in guys to drive in a run, it’s been elusive.”
The 1-0 loss marked Boston’s third shutout loss of the season. The Red Sox, who went 21-21 in one-run games last season, now are 5-10 in one-run games this season and sit one game below .500 overall.
“It’s a common theme we keep talking about,” said Lester, who fell to 4-5 despite lowering his ERA to 2.67. “I really don’t think we’ve hit our stride on both ends of baseball. The nights that we pitch well and hit well, we don’t play good defense. Or when we don’t pitch well, we hit well. You look at our division, and we’re not far off. I don’t think there’s any worries or any type of panic or anything like that. We’ve got to keep grinding it out.”
The Red Sox have made strides offensively of late, particularly since Shane Victorino returned. Victorino was absent from Friday’s lineup because of a left knee issue, though, and Grady Sizemore, who batted second in his place, grounded into one of three double plays that killed Boston’s momentum.
Sizemore’s twin killing came in the sixth inning after David Ross (single) and Dustin Pedroia (walk) reached to begin the frame. Ross still advanced to third base on Sizemore’s hot shot to second base, but the Tigers wisely intentionally walked David Ortiz with first base open, and Scherzer struck out Mike Napoli to end the threat.
The Red Sox again put their first two hitters on base in the seventh inning, only to see their effort fall short when Jackie Bradley Jr. struck out swinging and A.J. Pierzynski — pinch-hitting for Will Middlebrooks — grounded into a double play.
“Very frustrating,” Bradley said of the Red Sox failing to cash in. “We’re going out there every single day trying to get a win. Any game that you don’t win is not a good game.”
When it rains, it pours. And while the Red Sox’s offense has managed to improve over the last few weeks, the skies still keep opening up from time to time with runners on base, making it difficult for Boston to stay above water — or, in this case, .500.