Boston’s Jon Lester outdueled Max Scherzer as the Red Sox beat rival division leaders Detroit 2-1 on Tuesday, ending the Tigers pitcher’s chance to become just the second pitcher ever to open a season with a 20-1 record.
Roger Clemens is the only pitcher to start 20-1, ending 20-3 with the Yankees in 2001.
The Red Sox maintained their 5.5 game lead in the American League East Division from Tampa Bay, who beat the Los Angeles Angels.
Detroit saw their lead in the AL Central trimmed to a still comfortable 7.5 games by Cleveland, who beat Baltimore.
Boston’s Lester (13-8) lowered his ERA to 1.71 in his past six starts. He allowed one earned run with a season-high nine strikeouts and no walks.
Scherzer (19-2) lost for the first time since July 13.
In the AL West, Texas beat Oakland to take sole possession of the divisional lead a game ahead of the Athletics.
The Rangers’ Martin Perez allowed one run over seven innings to win his sixth straight start and guide Texas to a 5-1 win.
After falling into a tie for first with the A’s when they lost the series opener, the Rangers bounced back behind another strong performance from Perez (9-3).
Mitch Moreland homered for Texas, who scored three unearned runs in the fifth — with two hits back toward pitcher Bartolo Colon which he could not glover — to take a 4-1 lead.
In the AL wild-card race, Oakland are 2.5 games ahead of Tampa Bay, who hold the second berth by the same margin ahead of the New York Yankees.
Cleveland’s Ubaldo Jimenez pitched six scoreless innings to steer the Indians to a 4-3 win over the Orioles.
The Orioles came back in the ninth thanks to Nate McLouth’s three-run homer with no outs, but Indians closer Chris Perez struck out two before retiring Chris Davis, who leads the majors with 47 homers, on a ground ball.
Tampa Bay’s Matt Moore pitched into the sixth inning in his return from injury, helping the Rays beat the Angels 7-1.
Moore (15-3) won his seventh straight decision, yielding one unearned run in 5-1/3 innings as the Rays snapped a five-game losing skid. The All-Star missed the all of last month due to elbow soreness.
Desmond Jennings and Yunel Escobar hit homers for Tampa.
In the National League, with the East and West titles all be decided, the fight rages on in the Central Division, which looks likely to yield three playoff spots. Pittsburgh opened a two-game lead with a win over Milwaukee, who also formally ensured the Pirates ended a 21-year run of losing records.
Pittsburgh are clear of St Louis, who were beaten by Cincinnati, putting the Reds within 1.5 games of the Cardinals.
Cincinnati’s Billy Hamilton got his first major league steal and came around to home plate on Todd Frazier’s double in the seventh inning, sending the Reds to a 1-0 win over St Louis.
Hamilton made his big league debut as a pinch runner for Ryan Ludwick, who led off the seventh with a single against Seth Maness (5-2).
After Maness threw to first three times, Hamilton took off and beat the catcher’s throw to second. Hamilton then easily scored on Frazier’s hit.
St Louis’ loss allowed Pittsburgh some breathing room atop the division after a 4-3 win over Milwaukee, thanks to Travis Snider’s ninth-inning homer.
It was victory No. 81 for Pittsburgh, ensuring they will not finish with a losing record as they since 1992.