Lester vs. Scherzer makes for one heck of a matchup

Lester vs. Scherzer makes for one heck of a matchup
May 16, 2014, 6:15 pm
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BOSTON - It'll be Jon Lester vs. Max Scherzer Friday night at Fenway Park. Prior to the game, Sox catcher David Ross may have previewed it best:

"Two of the top pitchers in the game in my opinion, and definitely going to be two of the top free agent pitchers in the market in the offseason. So this is a fun matchup if you're a baseball fan."

He makes three very true points: Both pitchers are really good, it sounds like they're both going to hit free agency (we know Scherzer is, anyways), and baseball fans should be treated to one of the rare ace vs. ace matchups that come along every season.

Lester comes in with a 4-4 record and a 2.75 ERA in 8 games (55.2 IP). He's tied for the second-most strikeouts in the AL (with Scherzer) at 66 and has fanned at least 6 batters in all 8 starts this season. That also ties him with Scherzer and David Price for the most games in the majors this year with 6-plus strikeouts. Lester ranks 2nd in the AL in strikeouts per 9 innings with 10.7. He trails - you guessed it - Scherzer, who averages 11.2 strikeouts per 9 innings.

This will be Lester's fourth start at home, as he's posted a 2.25 ERA. This will be his first start against the Tigers since beating them in Game 5 of the ALCS on Oct. 17, 2013 when he went 5.1 innings, giving up 7 hits, 2 runs, 3 walks, and striking out 3 batters.

Scherzer has had an extremely strong start to the season, making his rejection of the Tigers' six-year, $144 million extension look like a good idea by the start. Scherzer comes in to Friday night's game sporting a 5-1 record with a measly 2.04 ERA in 8 games (53.0 IP). He's looking for his 6th straight win tonight.

It's his fourth road start of the season, where he is 1-1 with a 3.00 ERA and 25 strikeouts. This is 5th career start at Fenway Park, where he holds a 1-2 record with a 3.86 ERA.

Who could forget Scherzer's ALCS performances at Fenway last year? In Game 2, Scherzer went 7 magnificent innings, striking out 13 Red Sox batters while holding a 5-1 lead for the bullpen to take care of. Well, the bullpen didn't take care of it. David Ortiz cranked a grand slam in the 8th inning to tie it up, and Jarrod Saltalamcchia won it with a single to left in the 9th. Again in Game 6 the bullpen (and defense) failed Scherzer, who left the game in the 7th inning with a 2-1 lead, two runners on, and one out. Two batters later, Shane Victorino hit a grand slam to put the Sox ahead for good.

"This is two premium guys, much like the game over in Chicago when Jon and Chris Sale hooked up," John Farrell said. "We've got a lot of recent history with last September and October with Scherzer the way he pitched against us, how good he is, how well he's been pitching this year. We've got our hands full this entire series."

So while Boston did win both of the games he started in, it was hardly at his own expense. They'll get another crack at him tonight.

"We've got Lester going, so we know no matter what we've got a chance with him going," Mike Carp said. "It's going to be a competitive game especially with Scherzer going. It's a big matchup considering the last time we faced him was here in the ALCS, so he threw a pretty good game that game. So it'll be interesting to go out and have a better gameplan this time."