Tigers 12, White Sox 5: Max Scherzer earns 20th win, Magic Number falls to three

Leon Halip

The Tigers scored all 12 runs in the first five innings, ensuring Max Scherzer would snap a four start winless streak to earn win number 20.


Final - 9.20.2013 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Chicago White Sox 1 0 0 2 0 0 0 2 0 5 9 2
Detroit Tigers 2 1 4 0 5 0 0 0 X 12 18 0
WP: Max Scherzer (20 - 3)
LP: Dylan Axelrod (4 - 10)

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It took five tries, but Max Scherzer finally joined the 20-win club. The Detroit Tigers gave Scherzer all the runs he would need with a four run third and five run fifth, cruising to an easy 12-5 victory over the Chicago White Sox.  The win lowered the Tigers' Magic Number for clinching a playoff berth to three.

Scherzer pitched six innings, pulled only to allow the bullpen to get some work. In winning his 20th, Scherzer allowed three runs on six hits, striking out three while walking only one.

"It's a milestone. It's what every pitcher wants." -Max Scherzer on win number 20

The White Sox were forced to pull Dylan Axelrod out of the bullpen to replace injured Andre Rienzo. It was a move the manager Robin Ventura would have preferred not to make, Tigers having Axelrod's number. Tonight was no different. Axelrod was rocked hard, the Tigers knocking him out of the box after serving up ten hits and seven runs in just 2 2/3 innings. The White Sox bullpen wasn't any better, Ramon Troncoso and David Purcey giving up an additional five runs.

Every starter had a base hit, the Tigers clubbing 18 in total on a long, wet night at Comerica. They were lead by Torii Hunter's four hits and three RBIs. Andy Dirks added three hits and two RBIs, Victor Martinez chiming in with two hits, one a home run, and two RBIs. Miguel Cabrera, Alex Avila and Omar Infante also drove in runs as the Tigers did all their scoring in the first five innings.

The White Sox were up after 1/2 inning, Conor Gillaspie drove in the game's first run with a sacrifice fly. Scherzer's only other mistake against the meager White Sox offense was giving up a two run homer to former teammate Avisail Garcia in the fourth. The benches having long emptied, Marcus Semien chipped in a meaningless sacrifice fly in the eighth, and Garica added an RBI triple.

Much of the reason Scherzer struggled to win his 20th game was the Tigers stopped giving him run support. In his last three starts combined, the Tigers scored all of five runs. Two of those starts were low scoring, one run defeats. Tonight, the Tigers made things easy for Scherzer, giving him so much support, win number 20 was a lock by the fifth inning.

Say what you will about wins in general, 20 is still a big damn deal. It's not as if 20 game winners are commonplace. Scherzer is the first to the mark in the big leagues this season, and may end up as the only one.

Over the past 30 years, the Tigers had just four 20 win seasons, accomplished by three pitchers: Jack Morris in 1983 and 1986, Bill Gullickson in 1991, Justin Verlander in 2011.

Make it five. Scherzer knocked down the door of the 20-win club.

Max Scherzer gave up a first inning run, much helped by a wild pitch. It could have gone far worse, but the White Sox ran the bases like, well, White Sox.

Alejandro De Aza led with a line drive just out of the reach of a diving Torii Hunter, good for a double. Alexei Ramirez struck out on a pitch well out of the strike zone. But it was so far out of zone, Alex Avila was unable to keep the ball in front of him, then had trouble finding it. By the time Avila located the wild pitch, De Aza was standing on third, Ramirez on first.

Runners on the corners for Conor Gillaspie, he hit a drive to deep center field. Austin Jackson had to get on his horse, running the ball down on the warning track. The sacrifice fly plated De Aza to put the White Sox up 1-0.

But Ramirez had made a fundamental mistake on Gillaspie's fly. By playing the ball halfway, he was unable to tag up on a ball hit nearly 420 feet. Ramirez doubled down on his mistake by mistakenly believing his had Scherzer's delivery timed. Ramirez took off for second before Scherzer had started his motion toward home. Scherzer easily picked him off for the second out, essentially ending the threat.

Due to Andre Rienzo suffering from a blister, the White Sox were forced to go with an emergency starter, Dylan Axelrod. Axelrod showed why he had a 7.20 ERA in three previous appearances against the Tigers this season and was banished to the bullpen in July. He immediately gave back the lead.

Jackson led off by doubling to right center. Center fielder Jordan Danks made a diving trap, but tried to sell the umpires. The sell job failed, which allowed Jackson to turn a single into a double. Axelrod walked Hunter, the runners advancing to second and third on Miguel Cabrera's fly ball to deep right.

A pair of runners in scoring position for Prince Fielder, Axelrod got a huge out when the Tigers' first baseman went fishing for strike three.

Taking a cue from the Mariners, with first base open Robin Ventura elected to walk Victor Martinez, preferring to take his chances with slumping Andy Dirks. The struggling left fielder foiled the White Sox strategy. Dirks drilled a two RBI single to center, giving the Tigers a 2-1 lead.

Omar Infante reloaded the bases with a single to left. But Axelrod struck out Avila with a shoulder high fastball, stranding three to end the inning.

Bottom of two, the Tigers continued to pummel Axelrod, extending their lead.

One out, Jackson singled to center. The Tigers proceeded to pull of the hit and run, Hunter's chopper bouncing high over Gillaspie's head at third and into short left field. Third base coach Tom Brookens aggressively waved Jackson around, scoring without a throw on Hunter's two base hit, putting the Tigers up 3-1.

With it already raining and more bad weather bearing down on Detroit, playing five full innings might become an issue.

So the Tigers continued to be the hammer to Axelrod's nail in the third.

Martinez and Dirks led off the inning with back-to-back singles. What was surprising wasn't the singles, but Martinez running on right fielder Avisail Garcia, going from first-to-third on Dirks' base hit.  One out, Avila made it a 4-1 game by going with the pitch, slicing an opposite field RBI single to left.

Santiago kept the inning going with a single to center, loading the bases for the top of the order. After Jackson struck out, Hunter made it a 6-1 game, singing through the right side.

"That's good tonic for the manager." -Jim Leyland on Torii Hunter reaching 80 RBIs

And that, as they say, was that. GAME OVER.

It was just a matter of making sure the Tigers got five full innings in before any heavy rain arrived.

Down five runs and Tigers on the corners for Cabrera, Ventura brought out the hook. Axelrod was finally pulled, replaced by right-hander Ramon Troncoso. Cabrera greeted Troncoso with a single to left, Santiago scoring to make it a 7-1 game. Troncoso reloaded the bases by walking Fielder, the ninth batter of the inning.

Martinez ended a long half inning, hitting the ball hard, but right at second baseman Gordon Beckham. The Tigers had sent ten to the plate, scoring four runs on six hits, increasing their lead to 7-1 over the lowly Pale Hose

Scherzer was sailing along until the fourth. Paul Konerko singled with one out, then rode home on Garcia's home run to left field, pulling the White Sox within four at 7-3. It was a nice at bat for the ex-Tiger, who fought off a handful of two strike breaking balls before going yard down the left field line. Scherzer would end the inning without further drama.

Bottom of four, Troncoso would give the White Sox their first stress-free inning, setting the Tigers down in order.

Needing one more inning to make it an official game, the Tigers held a 7-3 lead going into the fifth. But the White Sox tried to make things a little more interesting. Beckham led off by doubling into the right field corner, taking third on De Aza's one out single to center.

Scherzer got a little lucky in recording the second out. Ramirez scorched a line drive, but it was directly at Cabrera. Beckham just beat the gimpy third baseman back to the bag to avoid being doubled off.

A suddenly laboring Scherzer loaded the bases for Konerko by walking Gillaspie. After a mound visit from pitching coach Jeff Jones, Scherzer extinguished the threat when Konerko bounced weakly to second.

In the bottom of the fifth, the Tigers put a pair of runners in scoring position with two out, then put the game completely out of reach.

Santiago reached on Troncoso's error, unable to handle a throw from Konerko. With one out, Hunter continued breaking out of his slump with his third hit of the night (and fifth in two games) with a single to right. Both runners advanced a base on Cabrera's ground out, setting up a two out RBI opportunity for Fielder.

Ventura did what he loves most, make a pitching change. Playing matchups, he called on former Tiger left-hander David Purcey.

First pitch swinging, Fielder bounced a two RBI single up the middle to make it 9-3 Tigers. Martinez saw how well that worked, and topped Fielder in the process, taking the first pitch he saw over the bullpen. Martinez's 13th home run of the season was a two run shot, the Tigers pushing their lead to 11-3.

Dirks waited until the third pitch, singling to center. Infante hopped back on the first pitch parade, his fly ball to deep right center rolling all the way to the scoreboard in Death Valley, Dirks circling the bases to increase the lead to nine runs at 12-3.

Purcey ended the inning by striking out Avila. but it was much too little, far too late.

The Tigers had plated five runs on five hits and the inning opening error.  Purcey needed just 11 pitches to throw jet fuel on the fire, serving up four hits and three runs. The Tigers fell a double short of hitting for the cycle off Purcey.

"It's not just me pitching well. It's a team effort." -Scherzer when asked what 20 wins means to him

His 20th win now in the bag, Scherzer was given the rest of the night off after throwing 90 pitches over six innings. Top of seven, everyone's favorite coin flip, Al Alburquerque, entered the game. Of course, he walked the lead off man, because that's what Al-Al does. But he can also get people out when the slider is working. It was tonight, Alburquerque setting the next three White Sox down in order.

Purcey hung around until the bottom of the seventh. Fielder doubled to left, over the outstretched glove of De Aza. After the unthinkable happened (Fielder was pulled for pinch runner, Matt Tuiasosopo). After Purcey hit Dirks with a pitch, Ventura made another pitching change, bringing on Daniel Webb. Web would pitch out of the jam, keeping the White Sox from falling double digit runs behind.

Jose Alvarez got the eighth inning garbage time assignment. To say it wasn't an impressive outing is being generous. Alvarez threw glorified batting practice, allowing three extra base hits.. Gillaspie's fly ball dropped in the left field corner, Dirks kicking it around for a three base hit. Marcus Semien flew out to the warning track in left, Gillaspie scoring.

Alvarez kept Dirks busy as pinch hitter Jeff Keppinger lined a double into the left field corner. Garcia followed up with a line shot to left center, tripling to the flag pole, plating Keppinger. That would end the night's scoring.

Keep in mind Alvarez's inning more annoying than worrisome, the game was never in danger. The Tigers held a seven run advantage after 7 1/2, 12-5.

Luke Putkonen got the short end of the stick, earning ninth inning duty in a 12-5 blowout. He had far more success than Alvarez, tossing a 1-2-3 inning to officially end a game which had been long, long over.

GAME decisively OVER after 3:32. Your final score is Tigers 12, White Sox 5, Max Scherzer 20 ... wins, that is.

The Tigers hit the 90 win mark on the season, joining the Red Sox, Braves and Athletics. They raise their overall record to 90-64 (.584), still a 1/2 game back of the A's for second best in the AL and home field in the ALDS. Thanks to a rain-shortened victory by the Indians, the Tigers' lead in the Central remains at a solid six games.

The penultimate game of the season between the White Sox and Tigers features lefty ace Chris Sale (11-13, 3.08 ERA) taking on Rick Porcello (13-8, 4.45 ERA).

Sale has been victimized by a lack a run support by his last place teammates, but is still a legitimate challenger for the Cy Young.  The Tigers have beaten Sale just once in four attempts this season, 7-3 on July 23. The White Sox's number one starter had one his best games of the season in beating the Tigers on September 9, tossing eight innings, allowing one run on four hits, walking one and striking out eight in a 5-1 win. As good as (arguably) the AL's best left-hander is, there is hope. Sale was rocked by the Indians in his last start, allowing six runs on nine hits, pulled after 5 2/3 innings in a 7-1 loss.

Porcello has been been lights out since being knocked around by the Red Sox on September 4. He's won his last two starts, allowing just two runs and 12 hits, striking out 15 in 15 innings. You may want to #KillTheWin, but Porcello has pitched well enough to have the second most wins on the team post All-Star game, seven to Scherzer's nine. To the 20 game winner's credit, Scherzer has a 2.51 second half ERA to Porcello's 3.93. To Porcello's credit, his second half ERA is nearly a run lower than what he put up in the first half.

Saturday will be the final night game of the season at Comerica Park. First pitch is set for 7:08 PM.

WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:


Source: FanGraphs

BULLETS:

I'm old enough to have seen two Tigers World Championships and the 80's glory years, yet also witness far too many eras of historically bad baseball. I have to agree with Jim Leyland. We're watching what might be the greatest ever era of Tigers baseball.

Victor Martinez has gone from fans wanting him benched to being second to only Miguel Cabrera as the Tiger no pitcher  wants to face.

Cabrera has 19, Martinez 9 after a first inning IBB.

How much have the Tigers missed Jhonny Peralta's bat? Andy Dirks' two RBI single in the first makes for the first multi-RBI game for a number six hitter since Torii Hunter drove in three on August 29.

Top of the second, Ramon Santiago channeled his inner Jose Iglesias with a marvelous diving catch (MLB.com video).

Santiago_catch_9-20-13_medium

Quiet night in the press box for the beat writers...

In the meantime, Hark Harrelson was in a surly mood.

In honor of Dylan Axelrod getting pounded, Phil Coke's Brain got punny with Photoshop.

In Rod Allen's world, sabermatricians are called "WAR guys."

Mario Impemba: "Scherzer is on top of this list (WHIP leaders shown)"

Rod: "That means the WAR guys are likin' him then."

More Rod and Mario shenanigans took place in the Tigers' five run fifth:

Mario: They're makin' it rain!"

Rod: What do you know about makin' it rain?"

That's general silliness! EVERYBODY DRINK!

Apparently, BYB minds think alike and don't forget anything Jim Leyland says. Such as, "I don't run for Prince Fielder. Period."

Fielder was pulled for a pinch runner after doubling in the seventh. LEYLAND LIES!

Nick Castellanos made his first in-game appearance since last Saturday, pinch hitting in the seventh. He flew out, dropping his average to (small sample size alert!) .231 (3-for-13).

The 2013 Tigers become the 20th in franchise history with 90 wins. Eight games remaining and if they refuse to lose, the Tigers can equal the both the 1909 and 1987 squads with 98. They do have a shot at equaling the win total of the 2006 and 2011 squads, both finishing at 95 victories.

THREE ROARS:

Max Scherzer: Put his Cy Young candidacy back on track by becoming the first (and quite possibly only) 20 game winner in the major leagues. Even though wins tend to be more of a team stat and devalued in advanced metrics, 20 victories remains an important milestone to most fans.

Torii Hunter: Has broke out of a slump in a big way. Hunter has six hits in the last two games, including four tonight. The veteran also drew a walk, drove in three and scored twice.

Victor Martinez: When the White Sox weren't pitching around Martinez, he was punishing their pitchers. Martinez hit the only home run on the night, driving in a pair.

BONUS ROARS:

Prince Fielder: Another nice game for the resurgent Fielder with two hits and two RBIs.

The Comerica Park crowd: Very few fans left Comerica, hanging around till the end in miserably wet weather.

ONE HISS:

Jose Alvarez: Still failing the post season audition.

ROLL CALL:

Roll Call Info
Total comments 701
Total commenters 39
Commenter list Alex Baker, AwesomeJackson, BadCompany22, BigAl, DJ Screw, Dale S, Designated for Assignment, FrogTownFan, GVLaker09, JWurm, J_the_Man, Jacob30, KGW, Keith-Allen, MSUDersh, Michigan&TrumbullinLA, NCDee, NorthLeft12, Phil Coke's Brain, Rob Rogacki, SanDiegoMick, Singledigit, SpartanHT, Tigerdog1, XFizzle, ahtrap, beelze, bobrob2004, bowling255, dishnet34, josejose50, knucklescarbone, lesmanalim, rbbaker, redwingxviii, rock n rye, sauce1977, stevenyc, texastigerfan
Story URLs http://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/9/20/4752342/game-154-white-sox-at-tigers-7-08-pmhttp://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/9/20/4754152/game-154-overflow

TOP TEN COMMENTERS:

# Commenter # Comments
1 Singledigit 83
2 Alex Baker 78
3 rock n rye 60
4 FrogTownFan 55
5 rbbaker 34
6 SanDiegoMick 33
7 NCDee 33
8 ahtrap 33
9 stevenyc 32
10 J_the_Man 29

TOP RECS:

# Recs Commenter Comment Link
6 Phil Coke's Brain Axelrod
5 NCDee MaXX!
4 Rob Rogacki The same thing we do every night, Pinky
2 SpartanHT 3's Company too!
2 J_the_Man BRWAAWAWAWAWAWAAAAAAA
2 dishnet34 Tropical depression?

GAME 154 PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Prince Fielder had a big day with three hits, an RBI, scoring the game winning run and scoring some free nachos. Fielder won the PotG poll over four other deserving candidates with 48% of the vote.

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