Max Scherzer outduels Matt Harvey in 3-0 game

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It was the best pitching matchup of the season that a big chunk of the U.S. was unable to watch.

Max Scherzer struck out 11 over six innings and combined with three relievers on a shutout as the Tigers beat the Mets 3-0 on Saturday.

Matt Harvey took the loss after giving up two runs in 6 2/3 innings. Oddly enough, he surrendered 13 hits. That’s three more than he had ever allowed previously. He entered the day with a .199 batting average-against this season. The Tigers, though, hit .406 against him.

Perhaps most interesting, Harvey allowed hits to the last four hitters he faced, without ever giving up a run. All four hits were singles, and Omar Infante was thrown out at home on the third of them. After the fourth, Scott Rice replaced him and got Torii Hunter to hit into an inning-ending groundout.

Scherzer’s win moved him to 19-1 on the season. He has a realistic chance of finishing with the best winning percentage ever, minimum 20 decisions:

.950 – Max Scherzer – 2013 Tigers (19-1)
.905 – Greg Maddux – 1995 Braves (19-2)
.900 – Randy Johnson – 1995 Mariners (18-2)
.893 – Ron Guidry – 1978 Yankees (25-3)
.886 – Lefty Grove – 1931 Athletics (31-4)
.880 – Cliff Lee – 2008 Indians (22-3)
.880 – Preacher Roe – 1951 Dodgers (22-3)

With 33 games left in the Tigers’ season, Scherzer probably has six starts remaining. If he can avoid losing more than one of them and he can win at least one more game, then he’ll top Maddux’s .905 winning percentage from 1995.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.