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If we had to decide who the Tigers' best pitcher has been this season, who would you say? Justin Verlander? How about tonight's starter, Max Scherzer?
Me, I'd go with Scherzer, and not just because I touted how excited I was to see him the entirety of spring training. Heading into the day's 7 2/3 inning shutout performance, his ERA was 2.43 over a 21 game stretch since visiting Triple-A Toledo to fix his mechanics in May. According to the game notes, he was second among American League pitchers during that stretch with 143 strkeouts. Tonight, he added eight more to his season total, putting him at 181 for the year. He allowed just two hits.
Maybe you still prefer Verlander, who threw a complete game on Sunday. His ERA is a tad higher for the year (3.46 vs. 3.40 for Scherzer), but he has 17 more strikeouts and more innings pitched this season. A full-time Tiger since 2006, this is Verlander's pitching staff and you always expect something exciting when he's on the mound.
The great thing is, we don't have to pick just one. The 1-2 punch that is Scherzer and Verlander has been incredible to watch -- and will continue to be so into the future short of a trade. (Please please please no trades!) This marks the first season since 1974 the Tigers have had two pitchers with at least 175 strikeouts in the same year. Mickey Lolich and Joe Coleman did it that year.
Today, Scherzer dueled with KC starter Kyle Davies for 4 1/2 innings before Miguel Cabrera snapped the Royals' perfect game with an opposite field single that set up a three-run inning. A single by Ryan Raburn, double by Brennan Boesch and single by Brandon Inge accounted for the scoring. Johnny Damon drove in Austin Jackson, who is now just a run short of 100 scored for the season.
Unfortunately, the Tigers failed to hold on to the shutout when Billy Butler homered off Phil Coke in the ninth, but we'll take the victory. The Tigers are giving Coke ample opportunity to being acquainted with throwing in the final frame of the game, so hopefully that pays off down the road.
Not to be forgotten, Will Rhymes started a nice double play in the third inning when he came to a sliding stop before flipping the ball to Jhonny Peralta.
The Tigers won the season series with the Royals 10-8. Ten games remain this season for the Tigers, who are three games behind the second-place White Sox. As you've probably heard, the Twins clinched the division on Tuesday.