DETROIT — For pending free agents Jon Lester and Max Scherzer, Saturday night will quickly be forgotten. Their careers are such that one game won’t change anybody’s opinion about their worth if they enter the market after the season.
But the game was an example of how even the best pitchers can look like bad ones. The Detroit Tigers beat the Red Sox, 8-6, at Comerica Park as the aces allowed nine runs on 23 hits.
Lester faced Scherzer at Fenway Park on May 16. The Tigers won that game, 1-0.
“There were a lot of good at-bats on both sides tonight,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “It was more of an offensive night tonight all the way around.”
Scherzer had the advantage of a better bullpen and more offensive support as the Red Sox lost their fifth straight game and fell to 0-5 against the Tigers this season. They have been outscored, 27-11, against Detroit.
The 27-34 Sox have dropped 15 of their last 22. They were 37-24 after 61 games last season. John Lackey starts on Sunday night with the Red Sox trying to avert a sweep before continuing their road trip in Baltimore on Monday.
Lester (6-7) could not get through the fifth inning, giving up five runs on 12 hits. Scherzer (7-3) allowed four runs on 11 hits but lasted into the seventh.
“Obviously wasn’t good from the start,” Lester said. “It was one of those weird nights. Felt like from the first throw in the warm-ups to the last pitch on the mound, it wasn’t good.
“Combine that with a good-hitting team like they have over there and you get the results like you did tonight.”
Lester’s dour expression changed to a rueful smile when asked if he was healthy.
“We’re going there?” he said. “One bad start and we’re going there? . . . I think we’re all allowed to have bad starts from time to time. With that being said, do I accept it? Absolutely not.”
Detroit had 16 hits and eight players each had one RBI. The Red Sox had 15 hits, their most since April 25. They scored twice in the ninth inning against Tigers closer Joe Nathan.
But with two on and two out, Stephen Drew flied to center. He is 1 for 11 since rejoining the team.
“We continued to battle back, right to the final out,” Farrell said.
Dustin Pedroia and David Ortiz each drove in two runs for the Red Sox. A day after he vowed to get hot at the plate, Pedroia was 3 for 4. Daniel Nava, fighting to stay on the roster, was 3 for 4 and drew a walk.
“We swung the bats great. That’s a Cy Young winner [in Scherzer]. We had some great at-bats and hopefully that will continue and we’ll find ways to win,” Pedroia said.
Lester needed only five pitches to get the first two outs of the first inning. That’s when the trouble started and never really stopped for him.
Miguel Cabrera doubled to the gap in left field, hitting a low line drive so hard that it split the outfielders in a blink. Victor Martinez followed with a double down the line in right field and Cabrera scored.
Torii Hunter’s RBI single made it 2-0. By the time the inning was finished, Lester had thrown 23 pitches.
Austin Jackson led off the second inning with a single for the Tigers. Bryan Holaday bunted and was safe at first when inexperienced first baseman Brock Holt missed the tag.
Rajai Davis singled to left and Jackson scored.
Two Detroit rookies, Nick Castellanos and Eugenio Suarez, had solo homers off Lester. Castellanos drove a fastball out to left field in the third inning and Suarez went the same way in the fourth inning when Lester left a 3-and-2 cutter up.
For the 22-year-old Suarez, who made his major league debut on Wednesday, it was his first career hit.
Lester was taken out in the fifth inning after giving up two hits. The 4⅓ innings were his fewest since last Aug. 2 against Arizona. It was only the third time in 234 career games Lester failed to strike out a batter and the second time he allowed 12 hits.
Relievers Craig Breslow, Junichi Tazawa, and Andrew Miller each gave up a run.
Scherzer allowed four runs on 11 hits over 6⅔ innings. He walked one and struck out nine. But as Lester struggled early, he shut the Red Sox out over the first three innings.
With the Sox down, 4-0, Pedroia homered in the fourth. It was his first since May 11.
David Ross doubled in the fifth inning and scored on a single to left field by Jackie Bradley Jr.
Singles by Pedroia, Nava, and Drew accounted for a run in the sixth inning. With runners at first and third, Scherzer struck out Ross to end the inning.
Bradley drew a walk to start the seventh. A two-out single by Pedroia and a double to the opposite field by Ortiz cut the Detroit lead to 7-4. It was the first double for Ortiz since May 14.
The double ended Scherzer’s outing after 115 pitches. With the tying run again at the plate, Al Alburquerque got Grady Sizemore to ground softly to first base.
Sizemore was the No. 5 hitter despite coming into the game without an extra-base hit or RBI in his previous eight games. He was 1 for 5 and is hitting .222 on the season with a .291 on-base percentage.