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.
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.