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Red Sox come up short in another close game, losing 1-0 to Scherzer and Tigers

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BOSTON - The defending champion Red Sox are having trouble pulling out the close games.

Boston was 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position in Friday night's 1-0 loss to the Detroit Tigers.

"Once again, it's a consistent story," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "When the opportunities are created, as much as we continue to put trust in guys to drive in a run, it's been elusive."

The Red Sox have played 15 one-run games this season and are 5-10 in those contests.

"I don't think we've hit our stride on both ends of the baseball," said Red Sox starter Jon Lester (4-5), who allowed one run on four hits over five innings, striking out seven and walking three.

"The nights we pitch well and hit well, we don't play good defence. Nights we don't pitch well, he hit well."

In a game that set up as duel between two of the AL's best in Lester and reigning Cy Young winner Max Scherzer, it was a bloop single by Tori Hunter in the first inning that was the difference.

Lester laboured through a 27-pitch first inning. Ian Kinsler singled with one out, moved to second on a walk to Miguel Cabrera and scored on Hunter's base hit.

"'With the exception of (Miguel) Cabrera (in the first inning), I pounded the strike zone," the left-hander said. "I felt like I threw a pretty good pitch to Hunter. He dumped it into the left and that's the outcome of the game."

Scherzer tossed six shutout innings for the Tigers, playing their first game against the defending champion Red Sox since losing last year's American League Championship Series in six games.

Detroit has baseball's best record at 25-12, having won 13 of its last 16 games and nine in a row on the road.

Scherzer (6-1) is a major reason why. He allowed just three hits over six-plus innings in winning his sixth straight start and lowering his league-leading ERA to 1.83. The right-hander struck out seven, walked four and was removed after yielding a leadoff single to Mike Carp in the seventh.

Joba Chamberlain retired the side in the eighth and closer Joe Nathan pitched a perfect ninth for his 11th save of the season.

The game was delayed 47 minutes by rain in the top of the fourth inning.

"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."

The delay barely slowed Scherzer.

He struck out four straight while facing the minimum through three innings before David Ortiz recorded Boston's first hit with a two-out single in the fourth.

"The numbers back up how good a pitcher he's been not just this year but in years before," Farrell said. "Well-pitched game on both sides."

David Ross singled to begin the sixth but was stranded at third when Scherzer fanned Napoli to preserve the lead.

Lester exited the game after five innings and 94 pitches. He gave up four hits with seven strikeouts and three walks.

Boston's bullpen permitted just two hits, both singles.

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 in that one. ... 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.

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