It made some sense when Tigers manager Jim Leyland told the media he might use Max Scherzer in the fourth game of the ALDS. Scherzer is an easy favorite to win the American League's Cy Young Award this year, and leaving him on the bench for lesser pitchers in an elimination game just screams of leaving the best arrows quivered. Of course, there was a nagging doubt that couldn't be shaken: Hey, can Scherzer even do this relief thing? It's not like he's done it much before.
Yes, can do this relief thing; no, it was not always pretty; and yes, we're going to be talking about it for quite some time.
Tuesday Scherzer entered in the seventh, escaped a bases-loaded, no-out scare in the eighth, and the rest, as they say, is history. The Tigers won, 8-6, extending the ALDS to a deciding Game 5 in Oakland Thursday night, and Motown has a new sports epic to recite.
He's going to get the credit here, because after throwing the kind of eighth inning he threw, you can do nothing else. Epic poems and myths aren't about those who make it look easy, they're about the ones who overcome those who have been given every advantage. A more overpowering appearance by Scherzer would have carried a lot less drama. This was not the kind of six-up, six-down two-inning total domination performance that would have made fans sit comfortably in their seats and enjoy themselves. If it were, we'd laud it briefly today, talk about Jhonny Peralta's home run and Austin Jackson's last laugh, and Scherzer would be worth nary a mention beyond the recap.
Instead, it was a man balancing on the edge, gripping his team's fate in his hands as he wobbled on the precipice, allowing a walk and a double and being asked to take one step closer to the end with an intentional walk and a 3-1 count before gaining purchase and taking step after deliberate step forward with a strikeout, then another, then a fly ball to center for the third out. Hulk Hogan couldn't lift his little Hulkamaniacs and teach them about never giving up if he wasn't first thoroughly beaten, laying broken on the mat with the ref's hand coming down for that final, third slap. Scherzer couldn't become legend without first being a swing away from being the goat.
But he wasn't beaten, his team wasn't beaten, the fans weren't beaten, the city wasn't beaten. We looked over the edge, and what we saw didn't look pretty. Max Scherzer may never need to buy a drink in this town again. The legend is made -- bases loaded, no outs, no runs. But, for everyone's sake, let's never stare that emptiness in the face again. We've had the incredible drama. A pleasant denouement and trip to the ALCS is all that remains.