It was, as baseball endings go, about as predictable as they come. Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera led off the bottom of the ninth with the game tied 5-5. He was 1-for-4 to that point with an RBI single. Entering the night with a .450 on-base percentage, simply reaching with a single or a walk would have sufficed with Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez waiting in line. But Cabrera, as he has done so often over his career and especially lately, took matters into his own hands. Ahead in the count 3-1, Cabrera blasted Royals reliever Aaron Crow’s 96 MPH fastball over the right field fence for a walk-off home run, his 39th long ball of the season.
It was a back-and-forth game all night long, with the Tigers going up 3-0 after two, then the Royals tying the game at three apiece in the fourth, and then with both teams pecking away at each other throughout the rest of the game for a run at a time. Royals starter Wade Davis could not escape the fourth, while the Tigers bullpen could not hold the fort down after starter Doug Fister exited after six innings.
As Orioles first baseman did not homer tonight, Cabrera now trails him by just five home runs, 44-39. Cabrera leads in RBI at 117-113, and in batting average, .358 to Mike Trout’s .331. Cabrera may still win a second consecutive Triple Crown.
With the win, the Tigers bolster their lead over the third-place Royals in the AL Central to 7.5 games.
Angels’ right-handed reliever Bud Norris made his 23rd appearance of the season on Friday, and after just three pitches, he was done for the night. He worked a 2-1 count to Marlins’ Dee Gordon in the eighth inning, then promptly exited the field after experiencing some tightness in his right knee. Neither Norris nor manager Mike Scioscia believe the injury is cause for major concern, and the 32-year-old right-hander admitted that it may have had something to do with his lack of stretching before he took the mound. For now, he’s day-to-day with right knee soreness, with the hope that the issue doesn’t escalate over the next few days.
While the Angels are lucky to have avoided serious injury, they’ll need Norris to pitch at 100% if they want to stay competitive within the AL West. They currently sit a full nine games behind the league-leading Astros, and haven’t been helping their cause after taking five losses in their last eight games. Friday’s 8-5 finale marked their third consecutive loss of the week.
When healthy, Norris has been one of the better arms in the Angels’ bullpen. Through 23 2/3 innings, he’s pitched to a 2.66 ERA, 3.4 BB/9 and an outstanding 11.8 SO/9 in 23 outings. The righty hasn’t allowed a single run in four straight appearances, recording three saves and helping the club clinch four wins in that span. This is his second setback of the year after sustaining a partial fingernail tear on his pitching hand during spring training.
Max Scherzer is a force to be reckoned with. The Nationals’ right-hander delivered a season-high 13 strikeouts against the Padres on Friday, locking down his fifth win and his fourth double-digit strikeout performance of the year.
More remarkably, it was also the 53rd double-digit strikeout performance of Scherzer’s career, tying Clayton Kershaw for the most 10+ strikeout appearances by an active major league pitcher. Chris Sale is a distant third, with 43 to his name, though he’s been making considerable strides to catch up so far this spring.
Scherzer took the Padres to task on Friday night, whiffing 13 of 31 batters during his 108-pitch outing. He started strong, catching Allen Cordoba swinging on a 1-2 count to start the game and keeping the game scoreless until Ryan Schimpf unleashed a home run in the fourth inning. That was the first and final run the Padres managed off of Scherzer, who retired 14 consecutive batters following the blast and came one out shy of a complete game in the ninth inning. (Fittingly, Koda Glover polished off the win with a final strikeout, bringing the total to 14 on the night.)
It’ll take more than one stellar start to advance Scherzer and Kershaw on the all-time list, however. Their 53-game record ranks 13th, about 159 games behind second-place Hall of Fame hurler Randy Johnson and a full 162 games shy of the inimitable Nolan Ryan.