Max Scherzer led the league in wins with 21 and WHIP with 0.97. He also logged the second-most double-digit strikeout games with eight, trailing the 12 of Yu Darvish. Among Game 1 starters on the American League side of the playoffs, Scherzer had to be the scariest and the Athletics saw exactly why tonight.
The Tigers supplied their starter with some early run support, tagging Athletics starter Bartolo Colon for three runs in the first. Two scored on a Miguel Cabrera single up the middle and they added one more when Prince Fielder grounded into a double play.
Meanwhile, Scherzer surrendered just one hit — a one-out triple to Yoenis Cespedes in the bottom of the second — through his first six innings of work. He racked up strikeout after strikeout, leaving the Athletics wanting a base runner of any kind. With the score still 3-0, the A’s finally got a base runner to lead off the seventh on an infield single by Brandon Moss. Scherzer battled Cespedes but left a 95 MPH fastball in the outfielder’s happy zone and he crushed it deep into the stands in left-center for a two-run home run to bring the score to 3-2. Scherzer was able to bounce back and get three quick outs to get out of the seventh without any further damage.
From there, Tigers manager Jim Leyland relied on his bullpen to get the final six outs. Drew Smyly recorded the first two in the eighth, then closer Joaquin Benoit finished out the frame to start a four-out save opportunity. In the ninth, the right-hander struck out the side, getting Moss, Cespedes, and Reddick to go down swinging in rapid-fire succession to nail down the win for the Tigers.
The 3-2 victory puts the Tigers up 1-0 in the best-of-five series. The two teams will go back at it tomorrow as Tigers starter Justin Verlander will oppose Athletics starter Sonny Gray.
Craig covered the bulk of Rob Manfred’s quotes from earlier. The commissioner was asked about robot umpires and he’s not a fan. Via Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports:
Manfred was wrong to blame the player’s union’s “lack of cooperation” on proposed rule changes, but he’s right about robot umps and the strike zone. The obvious point is that robot umps cannot yet call balls and strikes with greater accuracy than umpires. Those strike zone Twitter accounts, such as this, are sometimes hilariously wrong. Even the strike zone graphics used on television are incorrect and unfortunate percentage of the time.
The first issue to consider about robot umps is taking jobs away from people. There are 99 umps and more in the minors. If robot umpiring was adopted in collegiate baseball, as well as the independent leagues, that’s even more umpires out of work. Is it worth it for an extra one or two percent improvement in accuracy?
Personally, the fallibility of the umpires adds more intrigue to baseball games. There’s strategy involved, as each umpire has tendencies which teams can strategize against. For instance, an umpire with a more generous-than-average strike zone on the outer portion of the plate might entice a pitcher to pepper that area with more sliders than he would otherwise throw. Hitters, knowing an umpire with a smaller strike zone is behind the dish, may take more pitches in an attempt to draw a walk. Or, knowing that information, a hitter may swing for the fences on a 3-0 pitch knowing the pitcher has to throw in a very specific area to guarantee a strike call or else give up a walk.
The umpires make their mistakes in random fashion, so it adds a chaotic, unpredictable element to the game as well. It feels bad when one of those calls goes against your team, but fans often forget the myriad calls that previously went in their teams’ favor. The mistakes will mostly even out in the end.
I haven’t had the opportunity to say this often, but Rob Manfred is right in this instance.
ESPN’s Howard Bryant is reporting that Major League Baseball has approved a rule allowing for a dugout signal for an intentional walk. In other words, baseball is allowing automatic intentional walks. Bryant adds that this rule will be effective for the 2017 season.
MLB has been trying, particularly this month, to improve the pace of play. Getting rid of the formality of throwing four pitches wide of the strike zone will save a minute or two for each intentional walk. There were 932 of them across 2,428 games last season, an average of one intentional walk every 2.6 games. It’s not the biggest improvement, but it’s something at least.
Earlier, Commissioner Rob Manfred was upset with the players’ union’s “lack of cooperation.” Perhaps his public criticism was the catalyst for getting this rule passed.
Unfortunately, getting rid of the intentional walk formality will eradicate the chance of seeing any more moments like this: