The Detroit Tigers rode the All-Star right arm of Max Scherzer to a 4-1 victory and a two-game sweep of the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Tigers were able to pull off a win against the Dodgers' own All-Star starting pitcher, Zack Greinke, despite their own All-Star sluggers, Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, sitting out the action.
Cabrera was out of the starting lineup thanks to being given a scheduled day off by manager Brad Ausmus. Martinez missed his fourth consecutive game, and now seven of the Tigers' last nine, thanks to lingering side soreness.
Scherzer (W, 11-3) would allow just four hits and one run over seven full innings, striking out seven while walking a pair. The reigning AL Cy Young winner made just one large mistake, giving up a solo home run to light-hitting shortstop Miguel Rojas in the fifth inning.
The back end of the Tigers' bullpen was in full lock-down mode. Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan retired the last six Dodgers in order, each striking out a pair. Nathan recorded his 18th save of the season.
Greinke (L, 11-5) pitched very well ... save for the first inning. All three runs and three of the seven hits Greinke would allow in his seven innings of work came in a rocky opening frame. He would settle in to hold the Tigers scoreless over his final six innings, striking out eight. Brandon League pitched the eighth, tagged for Detroit's fourth and final fun.
The Tigers had just eight hits on the day, but three were for extra bases. Austin Jackson led the offense from the lead-off spot with a double, triple and two runs scored. Don Kelly took over at first base and did his best Cabrera impression, reaching base three times on a pair of hits and an intentional walk, also driving in a run.
The Dodgers showed little life on offense, save for Rojas' home run (the first of his career) and a pair of extra base hits from Yasiel Puig. There was no offensive life at all for LA late in the game. The last 12 Dodgers to come to the plate were set down in order.
The Tigers finished an up-and-down home stand with a 6-3 record, including sweeps of the Athletics and Dodgers. They now head off on a short road trip before the All-Star break, heading to Kansas City for four games. Going into tonight's play, the second place Royals find themselves five games back of the first place Tigers.
Max Scherzer: The starting rotation has been in a mini-funk entering today's action. The last Tigers starter to not allow five or more runs in six innings or less was ... Max Scherzer. The Tigers' All-Star showed why he's on the squad, holding the Dodgers to one run and four hits in seven innings.
Austin Jackson: There were signs of life in Jackson's bat in the lead-off spot with a double, triple and two runs scored.
Don Kelly: Who needs Miguel Cabrera? Kelly took over at first base, chipping in with two hits, a intentional walk (seriously!) and an RBI.
A styling Donnie Baseball gets the post game props from FSD. pic.twitter.com/6ybe84Fgku— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) July 9, 2014
Joba Chamberlain: Tossed a lights out eighth, capping it off with a strikeout of Yasiel Puig.
Joe Nathan: Followed up excellent outings from Scherzer and Chamberlain with one of his own. Nathan retired the side in order, striking out a pair.
The bottom of the order: The Tigers' 7-8-9 hitters (Alex Avila, Eugenio Suarez and Rajai Davis) combined on a 1-for-9, four strikeout afternoon. Davis did add his 23rd stolen base of the season.
Miguel Cabrera was not in the Tigers' starting lineup for the first time this season. It's not due to injury or a slump, it's that the two-time reigning AL MVP just plain needed a day off. Brad Ausmus has been saying for the last few weeks wanted to give Cabrera an off day, but Victor Martinez's injury derailed those plans. Today being a day game after a night game and also getaway day, Ausmus decided to bite the bullet and sit Cabrera.
Cabrera taking the day off led to some middle-of-the-order lineup juggling. Don Kelly got the start at first base, batting fifth. Torii Hunter was back in the DH slot, sliding into Cabrera's number three spot in the order. J.D. Martinez took over in right for Hunter while continuing to bat cleanup in Victor's absence.
On the FSD broadcast, Rod Allen and Mario Impemba dipped their toes into the waters of advanced metrics with a short discussion of WAR. To sum up:
Listening to Rod and Mario discuss advanced metrics is like listening to my parents discuss the Google thing.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) July 9, 2014
STREAKS AND STATS:
The Austin Jackson at lead-off experiment hasn't gotten off to a good start. Entering today's game, Jackson is hitting .194/.235/.226 in seven starts at the top of the order. Despite two hits today, the struggle to find the best place for Jackson in the batting order continues.
Turns out there was a method to the Don Kelly batting fifth madness. Donnie Baseball entered the day hitting .375 off Dodgers' starter Zack Greinke, though in an admittedly small sample size of eight at-bats. Kelly rewarded Brad Ausmus for placing him so high in the order. His two out RBI single in the first gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead, while a single in the fourth set up Detroit's third run.
A fourth inning single extended J.D. Martinez's hitting streak to eight games.
Max Scherzer has allowed two or fewer earned runs in 12 of 19 starts, including four straight.
Scherzer recorded his 11th victory of the season, tying him with Rick Porcello for both the team lead and for second overall in MLB. They trail only the Yankees' Masahiro Tanaka, who has 12 wins.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
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