Good Max Scherzer Handcuffs Mediocre Rays; Miguel Cabrera Is Reanimated

Good things happen to those who pitch.

Two of the bigger complaints surrounding the Tigers recently: Max Scherzer is inconsistent and Miguel Cabrera is underperforming. So it’s no surprise, then, that in a game in which Scherzer put together a third consecutive good start and Cabrera broke out with four hits and a homer, the Tigers dusted off the light-hitting Rays 5-2 in Tampa to halt a two-game losing streak.

Once again, Scherzer will be the encouraging story. He pitched six strong innings, giving up just four hits, two walks, and two runs – and took the AL strikeout lead back from Justin Verlander with seven Ks on the night. He was never in any real trouble and the Tigers were pretty well in control of the game early on.

Why were they in control? Well, they got early production from an unlikely source – Delmon Young. After Cabrera hit a line drive double play, it looked like the Tigers might be deprived of a big inning opportunity in the top of the third. Prince Fielder singled deep into the shift to move Quintin Berry to second, and Young came through with an RBI single. Alex Avila followed with an opposite field double, and the Tigers had staked Scherzer to a fairly early lead.

The Tigers got to Shields again in the fourth, as a pair of singles set up a first and third, one out opportunity for Berry. Berry dropped a bunt toward first and Carlos Pena charged and decided to try and get Brennan Boesch at home – but he bobbled the ball and ended up getting nobody at all. Cabrera followed with a single, but Austin Jackson was controversially thrown out at home – it looked as if he was never tagged, but he also didn’t slide, and really, the Tigers won, who am I to complain about shoddy umpiring in victory? Cabrera took care of the rest of the offense, singling Jackson home with two out in the 6th and then adding a solo homer in the 9th.

The Tigers’ bullpen by and large did their job, save for a few hiccups from Phil Coke. Even Jose Valverde tossed a 1-2-3 inning for his first save since that wrist issue sidelined him a week and a half ago. All in all, a relatively (and rare) stress-free evening for Tiger fans.

The bulletpoints…

  • Jackson had four hits. He’s now second in the AL in on base percentage, behind only noted Head & Shoulders enthusiast Joe Mauer.
  • Delmon Young has three multi-hit games in his last five. I know, I’m confused too.
  • The Rays were pretty well held down, as only four starters had hits, with Brooks Conrad and Elliot Johnson contributing two each. Luke Scott, feared Tiger-killer, was held hitless, as was Carlos Pena – who was on the wrong end of a pivotal strikeout to end the 7th inning and leave two men on.
  • You may have heard about Alex Cobb’s recent complete game in which he pitched eight innings and allowed eight runs against the Royals. Shields did something moderately similar tonight, pitching well into the 8th – despite giving up 14 hits.
  • The Tigers went 5-for-13 with runners in scoring position – and still left 11 on base.
  • The Tigers are now 20-21 on the road. Remember when winning on the road was their biggest problem about three years ago? As opposed to, you know, winning at home?
  • As far as the rest of the division goes, the Indians beat the Orioles handily and the White Sox beat the Yankees thanks to a horrendously played 9th inning by New York, so the AL Central is static tonight and the Tigers remain four games back.

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