Max Scherzer became the the first pitcher to start a season 12-0 since Roger Clemens did the same for the Red Sox in 1986, pitching the Detroit Tigers to a 6-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays. But reaching 12-0 wasn't his only MLB milestone. In striking out nine, Scherzer is the only pitcher in MLB history to go unbeaten in his first sixteen starts with at least 120 strikeouts. His streak of consecutive six-plus strikeout games reached 16 games as well.
In earning the win, Scherzer (12-0) scattered four hits over seven innings, allowing three runs. Joaquin Benoit pitched the ninth for his fifth save. Rays' starter Alex Colome (1-1) suffered the first loss of his career, allowing four runs on four hits in six innings of work. The Tigers tacked on two runs and four hits off three Rays relievers.
In a battle of home runs, the Tigers were victorious, clubbing three to the Rays two. That would be the difference in the game. Ben Zobrist and Wil Myers went deep, accounting for all three Rays runs. Miguel Cabrera had a four-hit game, homering in his first two at bats, knocking in three runs. Prince Fielder smashed one of the more memorable homers you'll ever see, a two-run bomb crashing into the catwalk hanging off the Tropicana Field roof.
Schzerzer was looking to equal one of the game's greats in Clemens. He would need help to reach the 12-0 mark from the Tigers' on again, off again offense and unpredictable bullpen. Scherzer got it, tying a 27 year old mark.
Cabrera got the road trip off to a great start. Austin Jackson started the game off with a base on balls. With one out, Colome hung a breaking pitch to Cabrera. Big, big mistake. Cabrera effortlessly turned on it and crushed a no-doubt two-run homer halfway up the left field seats. (MLB.com video) Cabrera's 23rd home run of the season gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead and raised his MLB leading RBI total to 80.
Colome would get out of the inning, but he put a scare into Rays fans doing so, nearly allowing back-to-back-to-back big flies. Both Fielder and Victor Martinez hit long drives which Matt Joyce caught at the base of the left field fence. Colome had allowed three fly balls which carried a good 1100 feet, but only allowed one home run.
In the meantime, Scherzer was in beast mode. He needed only 38 pitches to retire the first nine Rays he faced.
Speaking of beast mode...
Cabrera led off the the fourth, needing only one pitch to increase the Tigers' lead to 3-0. Colome served up a belt-high breaking ball which Cabrera slammed even further than his first home run, landing 3/4 of the way up the seats in left center. (MLB.com video) Add one to each of Cabrera's power totals; 24 home runs and 81 RBIs.
The Tigers continued to hit Colome hard, Fielder ripping a line drive into the right center field gap for a double. He would do the rest of the work of circling the bases with his legs. The big man advanced to third on Martinez's line out to right, and scored stranding up thanks to Colome's wild pitch, extending the Tigers' lead to 4-0.
Scherzer had retired 11 straight to start the game. The no-hitter and shutout would come to an end against the 12th Ray to come to the plate, Zobrist. First pitch swinging with two out, Zobrist yanked Scherzer's mistake pitch, a fastball in the "Happy zone," overt the right field fence. Zobrist's fifth homer of the season pulled the Rays to within three of the Tigers at 4-1. Or more correctly, the score was now Cabrera 3, Fielder 1, Zobrist 1.
Myers, the prize Rays rookie, showed why the Rays were so eager to acquire him from the Royals in the fifth. Myer's jumped all over Scherzer's off speed pitch, rocketing a line drive with home run distance down the left field line. The only question, fair or foul? Fair, the Rays now trailed the Tigers 4-2.. The carried just inside the foul pole for Myer's third home run of the season.
Cabrera didn't homer in his third at bat. But he did single with one down in the sixth, advancing to second when Colome walked Fielder. But Colome would strand both runners, ending the inning on Jhonny Peralta's warning track fly to dead center. With all the warning track power shown by the Tigers, it's time to hit the weight room.
Top of seven, the score still 4-2 Tigers, Jamey Wright took over for the rookie Colome. Infante singled with one down and stole second as Brayan Pena was striking out. Wright pitched out of trouble, Austin Jackson striking out to strand Infante in scoring position.
Scherzer entered the bottom of the seventh at an economical 85 pitches. Drew Smyly and newly recalled Bruce Rondon warming up, Myers singled with two out, only the third hit allowed by Scherzer. Make it four hits. Long-time Tiger Killer Luke Scott lined a double off the wall in the right field corner. Torii Hunter bobbled the ball, then instead of throwing home where he had a legit shot at Myers trying to score, he threw to second, where he didn't have a play. Everyone was safe, Myers scored on Scott's RBI double to make it a nail-biter at 4-3. The Rays had scored three unanswered runs since the Tigers had taken a 4-0 lead in the fourth.
Scherzer got out of the seventh without further incident, Jose Lobaton's ground ball to Fielder ending the inning and Scherzer's night. Scherzer left as the pitcher of record, a 12-0 start not yet a lock, but a definite possibility. It would be up to the bullpen to make it happen.
Cabrera's amazing night continued in the eighth. Much despised ex-Tiger Kyle Farnsworth on the mound and one out, Cabrera greeted him with a long fly to deep center which landed at the base of the wall, just missing a home run by a few feet. Cabrera had himself a standup double, his fourth hit (three for extra bases) giving him 11 total bases on the night.
Fielder due up, Joe Maddon decided to being on lefty Cesar Ramos to replace Farnsworth. Big mistake.
Ramos hung a juicy curve, Fielder let loose with a mighty swing ... and unleashed Holy Hell upon the baseball. Fielder crushed one of most majestic fly balls you'll ever see, one which appeared might hit the roof of Tropicana Field, which is 225 feet high. The massive fly ball ultimately caromed off the catwalk circling the field for a jaw dropping ground rule two run home run. (MLB.com video)
Fielder's atomic bomb of a home run was number 13 on the season. More importantly, it gave the Tigers an important pair of insurance runs, extending their lead to 6-3.
Al Alburquerque took over for Scherzer, hoping to protect a three-run lead. Al Alburquerque being Al Alburquerque, he had a typical Al Alburquerque outing - all or nothing. He walked the the lead-off man, number nine hitting Yunel Escobar. Alburquerque then struck out the next two Rays, Joyce and Desmond Jennings, Escobar taking second on a wild pitch.
The dangerous switch-hitting Zobrist due up and a runner in scoring position, Jim Leyland made the call to bring on Smyly. Ever the fireman, Smyly struck out Zobrist to end the threat to maintain the Tigers' 6-3 lead.
Top of nine, the Tigers were looking to increase their lead. Don Kelly led off with a single, Infante walked, Pena moved both runners into scoring position with a sacrifice bunt. Jackson almost made the move pay off. Instead, his line shot was directly at Escobar at short. He flipped the ball to third to double off Kelly, ending the inning.
No insurance runs meant de facto closer Benoit would enter the ninth in a save situation. After Johnson struck out swinging, James Loney dropped a Texas Leaguer in short left with one out. Benoit shrugged it off, striking out Myers and ending the game on Tiger Killer Scott's pop up.
A home run filled GAME OVER. Your final score is Tigers 6, Rays 3, the Tigers winning the home run battle three to two.
Jim Leyland was more relieved to get a win than anything else, even Scherzer starting 12-0.
"It's a nice individual thing, but more importantly, we needed to get a win and he got it."
He said something surprising about Al Alburquerque:
"We're going to try to make him the setup guy."
Well, now that was some....WHAT? That sentence made the hair on the back of my neck stand up on end. Alburquerque can be lights out ... when he's throwing strikes.
Regardless, it was a needed win for the Tigers. You couldn't ask for more in starting a long 11 games in 11 days road trip on the right foot.
The win raises the Tigers' over all record to 43-35, 17-19 on the road. Their lead in the Central holds steady at 2 1/2 games, the Indians beating the sorry White Sox in the first game of a double header.
In game two of the weekend series, the Tigers go with Justin Verlander (8-5, 3.90 ERA), who hasn't pitched more than five innings in his last two starts. The Rays counter with right-hander Chris Archer (2-3, 4.21 ERA), who has battled the same issue as Verlander this season; A lack of command leading to high pitch counts and short outings. Archer has only pitched past the sixth inning in one of his five 2013 starts. First pitch at the Trop is 7:15 PM.
The game will be televised as part of FOX's regional coverage, so archaic blackout rules will apply. For the most part, the game will be broadcast only in the home markets.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Miguel Cabrera's two run homer in the first inning gave him 80 RBI. Cabrera becomes the 22nd player in MLB history to reach the 80 RBI mark before July. Cabrera; also extended his latest hitting streak to 13 games. Coming into tonight's game, Cabrera was hitting .447/.519/.787 during the streak.
In the second inning Rays third baseman Evan Longoria was thrown out when Omar Infante crossed over to the shortstop side of the second base bag, making an off-balance throw to nail him by a good two steps . Part of the reason Infante was able to make the play was Longoria looked to be injured running out the ground ball. Longoria didn't return to the game, replaced by Kelly Johnson in the third. The Rays later announced Longoria was forced to leave the game due to aggravating the plantar fasciitis in his right foot.
Want to know why Scherzer lost the no-no?
Through four innings: Rays 0-for-12 when I'm in my seat, 1-for-1 with a home run when I'm not. Sure that's my fault.— Chris Iott (@Chris_Iott) June 29, 2013
The game zipped right along at a very refreshing pace, especially compared to the four hour slog we sometimes see. Midway through the fifth, the Tigers and Rays were on pace to play nine innings at a Mark Fidrych-esque 2:16. Those were the days, when few players bothered to leave the batters box to just whatnot after every pitch and hurlers didn't lollygag between pitches. What hath the Human Rain Delay wrought?
16-10. Indians-White Sox is officially a donkey basketball score.— Matt Sussman (@suss2hyphens) June 29, 2013
Another game, another blown call by the umpires. Matt Joyce was a little too nonchalant getting up after a pick off attempt in the sixth. An alert Prince Fielder slapped on the tag.
Everyone but first base umpire Dan Iassogna agreed Joyce was out. And Iassogna had the final say.
After Omar Infante stole second in the seventh, Yuniel Escobar wasn't as sneaky as Fielder, but more creative. Of course, the umpire actually got the joke.
Meanwhile, back in Chicago:
Casper Wells pitching for the White Sox!— YCPB (@cantpredictball) June 29, 2013
Casper Wells just hit 93 mph in Chicago.— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) June 29, 2013
Wells retires Kipnis, who had gotten on base six straight times, to end the inning. He's throwing a 4-seamer, 2-seamer and a change.— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) June 29, 2013
Allison is now the happiest baseball fan on the planet.
Casper Wells is the complete package. I've always known this. So dreamy.— Allison Marie (@norunsupport) June 29, 2013
Bad joke of the night (though I have to admit I laughed):
I put a Jhonny Peralta photo in my kitchen, but now I can't find the range.— Matt Snyder (@snyder_matthew) June 29, 2013
The Mario Impemba quote of the game game after Fielder's massive home run off the catwalk:
"That was just violent"
It also caused many a jaw to drop:
My god.— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) June 29, 2013
Prince. Boom. Kill.— Scott Rogowski (@DNR_Rogo) June 29, 2013
That went 753 feet. Conservative estimate.— TigersProspectReport (@TigersProspects) June 29, 2013
PRINCE FIELDER JUST KILLED ULTROS— Matt Sussman (@suss2hyphens) June 29, 2013
Home run by Prince Fielder hit the "C ring catwalk," the first ball to hit a catwalk in fair territory this season, the Rays say.— Chris Iott (@Chris_Iott) June 29, 2013
A Matthew B. Mowery Twitter follower coins the Al Alburquerque hat trick: K, walk, wild pitch.
Scherzer is keeping some very good company:
Roy Face is the only reliever. In 57 appearances, Face ended the season 18-1, not losing a game until September 11, 1959. He also saved ten games, finishing 47.
Miguel Cabrera: A monster game, 4-for-4, two homer runs, a double, three runs and three RBIs.
Prince Fielder: His second long home run drought of the season ends at 21 games. But answer this - Where does his monster home run land if it doesn't hit the catwalk? In a post game interview, Cabrera said Miami.
Max Scherzer: Has matched Roger Clemens with his 12-0 start. Next up? Clemens started the 1986 season 14-0. (For what it's worth, Clemens finished 1986 at 24-4, 2.48, winning both the AL MVP and Cy Young.) Scherzer also extended his six plus strikeout streak to 16 games. Least but not least, he tossed another quality start.
Players not named Cabrera or Fielder: Take way the middle of the order's gaudy 6-for-7, the rest of the Tigers' offense was a not so gaudy 2-for-25.
The Tropicana Field catwalk: A large hunk of metal in Tampa's concrete bunker impersonating a big league stadium denied us from seeing just how far Fielder's home run would have traveled.
Luke Scott: I HATE Tiger Killers.
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TOP TEN COMMENTERS:
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Doug Fister's quality start, allowing one run over seven innings in a no-decision, carried the Tall Man to the top of PotG polling, taking the top spot with 85%.