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.
Update (11:09 PM EDT):
From unlucky to lucky, the Cardinals maintained their position in the National League Wild Card race with walk-off victory over the Reds on Thursday night.
The Cardinals went into the top of the ninth with a 3-2 lead over the Reds, but saw the game tied when Scott Schebler dribbled a two-strike, two out ground ball down the third base line. It seemed as if the baseball gods had turned their backs on the Cardinals.
In the bottom of the ninth against reliever Blake Wood, Matt Carpenter drew a one-out walk. Randal Grichuk then struck out, leaving all of the Cardinals’ hopes on Yadier Molina. Molina went ahead 2-0 in the count, then ripped a 95 MPH fastball to left field. The ball bounced high and over the left field fence for what seemed like an obvious ground-rule double. Carpenter motored around third base and scored the winning run.
The Cardinals poured onto the field in celebration and the umpires walked off the field. Manager Bryan Price wanted to have the play reviewed, but when he went onto the field, the umpires were nowhere to be found. Price chased after them but to no avail. As the Cardinals left the field and the stadium emptied, the Reds remained in the dugout. The Reds’ relievers were left in a bit of purgatory, standing aimlessly in left field after exiting the bullpen. Finally, the game was announced as complete over the P.A. system at Busch Stadium. The results are great if you’re a Cardinals fan, but terrible if you’re a Mets or Giants fan.
As Jon Morosi points out, the rules clearly state that the signage above the fence in left field is out of the field of play. The umpires got it wrong.
Price, however, also took too long to speak to the umpires. Per Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
If this happened between two teams playing a meaningless game, it would’ve been a lot easier to swallow, but Thursday’s Reds-Cardinals game had implications on not only the Cardinals’ future, but the Mets’ and Giants’ as well.
Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman went 0-for-4 during Thursday’s win against the Phillies, snapping his hitting streak at 30 games. It marked the longest hitting streak of the 2016 season. Freeman’s streak of 46 consecutive games reaching base safely ended as well.
The longest hitting streak in Atlanta Braves history belongs to Dan Uggla, who hit in 33 consecutive games in 2011. Tommy Holmes hit in 37 straight for the Boston Braves in 1945.
During his hitting streak, Freeman hit .384/.485/.670 with 11 doubles, seven home runs, 27 RBI, and 26 runs scored in 136 plate appearances. That padded what were already very strong numbers on the season. After Thursday’s game, Freeman is overall batting .306/.404/.572 with 33 home runs, 88 RBI< and 101 runs scored in 677 plate appearances.