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.
Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.
Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.
Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.
Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):
We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.
Confirming a report from Tuesday, the Diamondbacks officially signed right-hander Fernando Rodney to a one-year, $2.75 million contract on Friday. The 39-year-old stands to receive up to $4 million in incentives, per Jack MacGruder of FanRag Sports, with $250,000 kicking in when the veteran reaches 40, 50 and 60 appearances and $500,000 if he reaches 70.
Rodney came three games shy of the 70-appearance mark in 2016 during back-to-back stints with the Padres and Marlins. He put up a cumulative 3.44 ERA on the year, which effectively disguised the extreme split during his performances in San Diego and Miami. The Diamondbacks aren’t anywhere close to contending in 2017, but Rodney should stabilize the back end of their bullpen while providing Arizona GM Mike Hazen with a potential trade chip during next year’s deadline.
Hazen issued a statement following the signing:
With Fernando, we’re getting an established Major League closer and a veteran presence in the bullpen. It is helpful to have someone with his experience on the back end to slow the game down and get the final three outs.