DETROIT — Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said there was no way Max Scherzer was going to talk his way into pitching the ninth inning, but eight dominant innings was more than enough as Scherzer held the Tampa Bay Rays to two hits and a run. The Tigers offense gave Scherzer an overabundance of run support, beating up on the Rays with a three home run first inning, which led to an 8-1 win as the Tigers picked up their fourth consecutive victory.
Scherzer allowed a leadoff double in the first inning, which came home to score on a sacrifice fly off the bat of Evan Longoria, but it would be the only run of the night for the Rays. Scherzer said he's had better 'stuff,' but despite struggling with commanding the fastball, Scherzer felt like he was able to use his other pitches to attack the strike zone, rather than pitch around it.
"I was pitching with four pitches," Scherzer said. "I was able to drop my curveball when I needed to, was able to use my changeup throughout the entire at-bats and I was able to use both breaking balls when I needed to. That's the stuff I'm looking for, minimizing walks and pitch ahead in the count." (h/t Noah Trister, Associated Press)
The only other hit Scherzer allowed occurred in the fourth inning, a single to James Loney. By the time Scherzer's night was finished, he had struck out eight, walked only one and retired 13 consecutive batters. Scherzer finished the eighth with back-to-back strikeouts and 23 of the last 24 batters were sent down in order.
"I thought my changeup was very nice," Scherzer said. "I was able to throw it for strikes when I needed to and I was able to bring it out of the zone when I needed to generate swing and misses and get them to chase it. Alex (Avila) did a great job of calling that and I thought I executed that pitch well."
Fresh off a three-game sweep of the best team in baseball, the Tigers used the Tampa Bay Rays as their personal batting practice in the first inning. The offense knocked Erik Bedard around for eight hits, six runs, two walks and three home runs in two innings before Rays manager Joe Maddon pulled the plug and replaced Bedard with Cesar Ramos.
Ramos did little to minimize the damage for the Rays as the Tigers tacked on three more runs. Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez, J.D. Martinez and Torii Hunter each drove in two runs and Kinsler, V. Martinez and Hunter each homered in the first inning. Austin Jackson finished 2-5 with two singles, Nick Castellanos tacked on two more hits and Miguel Cabrera finished 3-4 with two doubles.
"They hit everything on the screws," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "They didn't miss the mistakes."
First inning offense: The opening line for the Tigers offense read: Single, two-run home run, walk, two-run home run, flyout, solo home run, single, flyout, flyout. Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter homered in the first inning, giving the Tigers a firm 5-1 lead over the Rays in the first.
Victor Martinez: Spent three days out of the lineup due to soreness in his side and back. In his first at-bat back in the lineup, Martinez blasted a two-run home run to left field.
Torii Hunter: Added an fourth inning RBI single to his first inning solo home run, giving the Tigers a 7-1 lead.
Miguel Cabrera: Walked in his first plate appearance then proceeded to hit two doubles and a single. He scored each time on base, the fifth time he's done so in his career.
Max Scherzer: Pitched eight solid frames as he shut down the Rays for seven innings. Scherzer struck out seven and had six 1-2-3 innings in that time, retiring 23 of the last 24 batters he faced.
Eugenio Suarez: Finished 0-4 on the night, striking out looking in the fifth He was the only Tigers player without a hit, however, to his credit he did hit the ball hard with back-to-back flyouts in the first and third innings.
Alex Avila: Got a single in the third but nothing more as he would finish 1-4 and strike out swinging in the seventh.
Ausmus said the most difficult decision he had to make for the evening was placing Don Kelly on deck for Nick Castellanos while he went to the bathroom. Ausmus said he had Kelly there in case he was needed to instruct Cabrera to slide when coming home to score.
STREAKS AND STATS:
- The last time the Tigers hit three home runs in the first inning was against Chicago Cubs pitcher Mark Prior on June 18, 2006. The Tigers hit three home runs in a single inning for the first time since the fourth inning in the game against the Minnesota Twins on September 24, 2013.
- Miguel Cabrera finished the night 3-4, which gives him 358 multi-hit games as a Tiger. Cabrera is one multi-hit game away from tying Rudy York for 14th in franchise history.
- The five runs scored by the Tigers in the first inning against the Rays totaled more runs than the Rays have recorded in any of their last 18 games against Detroit.
- Miguel Cabrera now has 100 three-hit games with the Tigers, tying him with Gee Walker for the 10th most in franchise history.
- Miguel Cabrera's run scored in the sixth inning gave him four runs for the fifth time in his career and the first time since May 19, 2013 against the Texas Rangers.
- J.D. Martinez is tied for second in the American League since June 1 with 25 RBI and ranks fourth with a .354 batting average.
- Since Max Scherzer's outing against the Kansas City Royals when he gave up a career high 10 runs, Scherzer has pitched with a 1.24 ERA. In his last three outings, Scherzer has allowed just four runs on fifteen hits, walked four and struck out 29 batters in 29 innings pitched.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
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