Scherzer Spins a Gem As Tigers Take Game 1

Mad Max pitched like the ace, Joaquín pitched like the bullpen ace, and the Tigers won.

Mad Max pitched like the ace, Joaquín pitched like the bullpen ace, and the Tigers won.

Max Scherzer was brilliant in his 7 IP of work, as he racked up 11 strikeouts—a new career postseason high—and allowed just two hits, one of them being Yoenis Céspedes’ two-run homer in the seventh inning to cut the Tigers’ lead to one run. The bullpen then did the rest, clamping down on the A’s and maybe, maybe even silencing their raucous crowd a little bit, as the Tigers clawed their way out of O.Co Coliseum with a slim 3-2 victory.

The Tigers got the scoring going early, jumping on Bartolo Colón in the first inning for a 3-0 lead. Austin Jackson led off the game with a double and, after a Torii Hunter HBP, Miguel Cabrera cashed Jackson in with an RBI single. Prince Fielder grounded into a double play, but Hunter scored, and Victor Martinez followed up with a double. Alex Avila brought home the Tigers’ third run of the inning with an RBI single and Omar Infante grounded into a fielder’s choice to end the inning.

More after the cut

That was all the scoring until the seventh inning, when Céspedes smacked a massive two-run shot to bring the A’s to within one. The homer was one of only two or three mistakes Scherzer made all night, he was just that good. Scherzer and Avila went to the fastball early, throwing 67% of them to the A’s hitters, and powering through the lineup before turning to offspeed and breaking stuff later on. Via Tigers Prospects, Scherzer threw 72 fastballs, 44 for strikes, and got 10 whiffs. Of the 35 changeups he threw, he also got 10 whiffs. The Tigers as a staff struck out the A’s 16 times, postseason franchise records for both teams. The Tigers’ previous postseason strikeout high came in game 1 of last year’s ALDS, when Justin Verlander and two relievers combined for 14 strikeouts.

Jim Leyland, who has at times shown he isn’t afraid to turn to his best reliever late, especially in the playoffs, brought closer Joaquín Benoit into the game in the eighth inning with to preserve the 3-2 lead. Benoit promptly induced a pop up to first to end the inning, and then struck out the side in the ninth to cinch the victory. After the game, Leyland said if there had only been one out, he would have turned to Alburquerque; since there were two outs, he went with Benoit.

Oakland wasn’t without their chances. In the second inning, Céspedes hit a one-out triple but the A’s couldn’t bring him in. They also threatened a bit in the eighth, putting the tying run on base, but Benoit shut down the rally. It really was a story of the pitching, for both sides. And, as we all know, pitching wins championships.

Bullet Points

  • Colón’s HBP of Hunter in the first was his first HBP all season. After the game, he told reporters ‘The only ball I feel bad about is the one that hit Torii.’
  • Benoit was apparently in high spirits after the win, saying he feels like the Tigers are ‘on the verge of the World Series again.’ While not quite a Sheed-like guarantee, the A’s will probably take issue.
  • Cabrera came out of the game after running the bases in the eighth, and seemed bothered by his nagging injury/injuries. Leyland said after the game he wasn’t comfortable pulling Cabrera in just a one-run game but ‘there was a little bit more to it.’
  • Drew Smyly was in fine form, facing three switch hitters and striking out two of them. He walked Coco Crisp, but no one apparently wanted anything to do with the speedy Crisp as he walked three times.
  • Fielder hit a third inning single, snapping an 0-13 postseason hitless stretch.
  • The loss means Colón is now 0-8 in 14 career starts vs. the Tigers dating back to April 13, 2003.

    Justin Verlander (13-12, 3.46 ERA) will go for the Tigers in game 2, while Oakland sends out rookie Sonny Gray (5-3, 2.67 ERA).

    The Tigers have never faced Gray, who might have the advantage early on. He made 10 starts this year, throwing 64 IP while giving up only 22 runs, 51 hits, and 20 walks, along with 67 strikeouts. Gray was considered one of Oakland’s top young pitching prospects, and won a starting spot in the playoffs by virtue of his strong performance in those ten starts.

    Game time will be at 9:07pm EDT, on TBS.

    • profsimon

      You ALWAYS do such a fine job making sense of the broadcast commentary. I look forward to reading your posts… Amazing work on keeping us abreast of what’s going on with our “boys”.

      • cestma

        + 1

      • verlander

        Thanks, Mysterious Friend.

    • Ryan

      Fielder may have broken his hitless streak, but he continues to swing for the fences time and time again. This guy needs to just focus on getting hits. He has to be the one to pickup Cabrera…at least with what he’s being paid he should be.

      • verlander

        He will definitely need to come through. But I think swinging for the fences is his default setting or something.

        • Ryan

          Lol good point.

    Switch to our mobile site

    Visit Us On TwitterVisit Us On FacebookCheck Our Feed