Max Scherzer is hard to faze.
Detroit’s right-hander wasn’t bothered by a 47-minute rain delay in the fourth inning Friday night and wasn’t flustered when the game restarted 10 minutes earlier than anticipated.
And as for the defending World Series champions? They hardly troubled him at all.
Scherzer tossed six shutout innings, out dueling Boston ace Jon Lester and leading the Tigers to a 1-0 win over the Red Sox in the opener of a three-game series.
“The rain delay had no effect on me,” said Scherzer, who won his sixth straight start and lowered his league-leading ERA to 1.83. “When I went back out there for the fourth, it was the same.”
So was his stuff.
The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner allowed just three hits over six-plus innings before being removed after a leadoff single by Mike Carp in the seventh.
“This might have been the best his stuff has been all year,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.
Scherzer (6-1) disagreed, citing a below-average changeup and his four walks, one of which was intentional.
“It’s always going to drive me crazy when I’m not throwing first-pitch strikes and when I’m walking guys,” said Scherzer, who struck out seven.
“Even though I wasn’t able to do that tonight, when runners were on base I was still able to make big-time pitches.”
Joba Chamberlain retired the side in the eighth and closer Joe Nathan pitched a perfect ninth for his 11th save of the season.
Torii Hunter delivered an RBI single in the first inning for the Tigers, playing their first game against the Red Sox since losing last year’s American League Championship Series in six games.
Times have changed.
Detroit has baseball’s best record at 25-12, winning 13 of its last 16 games and nine in a row on the road.
Scherzer is a major reason why.
He faced the minimum through three innings before rain halted play with one out in the top of the fourth.
While it definitely put a damper on the marquee matchup of aces, the delay barely slowed Scherzer, who stayed warm by throwing in the cages and was ready to go when the game restarted ahead of schedule.
“For me, once I was able to get loose, I felt the same,” he said.
Had the delay lasted longer, Scherzer’s night may have prematurely come to an end.
“Right around an hour would have been too much,” Ausmus said. “There’s a little bit of a gray area on either side of that, but if it had gone much longer, he probably would have been done.”
Following the delay, David Ortiz recorded Boston’s first hit with a two-out single in the fourth, but was left on base when Scherzer fanned Carp.
David Ross singled to begin the sixth but was stranded on third when Scherzer struck out Napoli.
“I didn’t pitch my best, but when runners were on base and I needed to make big pitches, I made big pitches,” Scherzer said. “That’s the difference in the game.”
Lester (4-5) exited the game after five innings and 94 pitches. He gave up just one run on four hits with seven strikeouts and three walks.
“With the rain delay, we were in that situation nearly an hour and weren’t going to push Jon more than the five innings tonight,” Boston manager John Farrell said. “But to think one run in the first inning was going to be the difference, probably didn’t anticipate that.”
Lester labored through a 27-pitch first inning, highlighted by Hunter’s run-scoring single that plated Ian Kinsler, who singled.
“I actually felt better coming out of the rain delay then I did coming into the game,” Lester said. “I felt like I threw the ball a lot better the last two innings than I did the first three. I felt like I could have gone one more, but it wasn’t my decision.”
NOTES: Lester and Scherzer had faced off just once before, on Sept. 3, 2013, in a 2-1 Boston victory. Lester earned the win, allowing one run in seven innings with nine strikeouts and no walks. Scherzer yielded two runs over seven innings. … Cabrera entered the game batting .522 (12 for23) with one homer in his career against Lester. He went 0 for 2 with a walk Friday. … Ortiz’s fifth-inning single extended his season-long hitting streak to nine games. … Detroit reliever Evan Reed was called for a balk in the seventh.