OAKLAND, Calif. — Max Scherzer overpowered Oakland with his dominant fastball, then baffled the Athletics with his off-speed stuff.
Scherzer struck out 11 over seven innings, Miguel Cabrera helped stake Detroit to an early lead before leaving in the eighth, and the Tigers held on to beat the A’s 3-2 on Friday night in the opener of their AL Division Series rematch.
The only guy who could get anything going against Scherzer was Yoenis Cespedes — and that wasn’t enough the way the likely Cy Young Award winner was pitching.
“Today we noticed that my fastball seemed pretty good and my changeup seemed pretty good. That’s why I thought I was able to get into a groove and pitch deep into the game because of those two pitches,” Scherzer said.
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Cabrera, hindered by a groin strain, didn’t have to overextend himself on defense thanks to Scherzer’s 118-pitch gem. But Cabrera did look uncomfortable running out a grounder in the eighth, and manager Jim Leyland removed him.
Cabrera and Alex Avila each hit first-inning RBI singles against 40-year-old All-Star Bartolo Colon, whose winless stretch against the Tigers extended to 10½ years.
Scherzer retired 16 of his first 18 batters and was nearly untouchable before Cespedes hit a two-run drive in the seventh for his first career playoff home run.
Cespedes struck out in the ninth against closer Joaquin Benoit, who retired the final four batters for the save.
Leyland chose Scherzer over Justin Verlander, who goes in Game 2 on Saturday night against 23-year-old rookie Sonny Gray in just his 11th career start. Verlander beat the A’s in Games 1 and 5 of their postseason series last October.
BOSTON — One ball fell between two outfielders. Another took a bad hop off the Green Monster standings. One batter reached safely on a dropped third strike and another when the pitcher was slow to cover first.
By the time it was over, the Boston Red Sox had scored five runs in the fourth inning, taking advantage of Tampa Bay’s bad luck and bad defense to overcome an early deficit and beat the Rays 12-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS.
“You play 162 games, a lot of innings, a lot of pitches, a lot of runs. One thing you can guarantee in the playoffs is you’re going to see something you haven’t seen all year,” said Jonny Gomes, who doubled to tie the game and then scored from second on an infield single to give Boston the lead for good. “And we saw that right away.”
Needing a 163rd game to earn a wild-card berth, the Rays won three win-or-go-home games in three different cities to reach this series. Now they need a victory in Game 2 on Saturday to tie the best-of-five series before it shifts to St. Petersburg, Fla., for Games 3 and 4.
“We’ve been playing very well. We’ve not been making any mistakes. We made a bunch tonight,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “But I’ve also learned one other thing regarding baseball: 24 hours can make a huge difference. That’s just one game, baby. That’s just one. We’ll be back tomorrow, I promise you. We’ll be ready to play.