DETROIT — Max Scherzer gave the Tigers a solid performance as the offense connected with two home runs en-route to a 4-2 win over the Royals. Joe Nathan denied the Royals a late-inning rally and stellar defense kept the Royals from plating more runs.
Scherzer had a tricky time getting the Royals out at times, but he still allowed just one run on seven hits, striking out six in his 6 2/3 innings of work. Where Scherzer struggled were the walks, giving up four to the Royals who did their best to use it to their advantage. But Scherzer would not relent and battled to keep the Royals back, including a bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning.
"He's got a tough fastball to stay on for a hitter," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He did a nice job of keeping it at the top of the zone in the corners where hitters have trouble squaring it up, most the time they'll get under it. And then of course he mixed in the off-speed."
The fifth inning was the second-largest moment of the game (and the most critical at that point), the Royals getting two straight hits and scoring their first run on an RBI single by Omar Infante. With the bases loaded and only one out, Scherzer got a flyout and struck Eric Hosmer out swinging to eliminate a looming threat. Scherzer went back to the dugout with a fist-pump and a roaring standing ovation from fans.
The offense had two key hits, a two-run home run by Rajai Davis and a solo shot by J.D. Martinez, both home runs making up all but one of the runs for the Tigers. Ian Kinsler finished 0-4, but on the field he was flashing the leather on multiple occasions.
The biggest moment of the game, and to-date the season, occurred in the ninth inning. Tough-luck infield hits by speedy Royals runners put two aboard with no outs, putting Joe Nathan and the Tigers in a rough spot early. But Nathan reached back and with the help of an alert defense, crushed any Royals' hopes of taking the lead. A key pickoff at second base was the cherry on the top as Nathan struck out two, including the game-winning strikeout to hand the Tigers a crucial win.
"We sensed that he was going to try to steal third there," Kinsler said. "Romine, we just kind of looked at each other, and felt like he was going to try to take third, and I was able to make eye contact with Joe, and put the pick on, and we were able to get there."
The Tigers move back into a tie with the Royals for first place in the AL Central with the win. They are 11-4 against the Royals this season and Nathan earned his 30th save of the season. The Tigers go for the series sweep on Wednesday, a win that would mean sole ownership of first place if they can take advantage of the Royals one more time.
"A solid win," Nathan said. "Some timely hitting. Scherzer was outstanding, and we were able to close it out in the last few innings."
Max Scherzer: Scherzer battled the Royals for 6 2/3 innings, allowing just one run on seven hits, striking out six and walking four. Scherzer held the Royals down when it mattered and got out of a critical bases-loaded jam in the fifth inning.
J.D. Martinez: Missed a grand slam by mere feet, settling for a loud sacrifice fly to right field in the first inning. He also snagged a scorched leadoff fly ball in left in the fourth inning that barely missed home run distance. Martinez made up for missing the grand slam by smoking a solo home run to left field in the fifth inning, giving the Tigers a 4-1 lead. (MLB.com video)
Rajai Davis: Hit his eighth home run of the season in the third inning, a two-run shot to left field that gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead. (MLB.com video)
Torii Hunter: A one-out single in the first started a mini-rally for the Tigers in the first inning. Hunter came around to score on the single, and singled again in the second inning after Davis' home run. He also made a fine running catch in the deep right field corner to end the top of the fourth. In the bottom of the fourth, Hunter also reached on a fielding error by the third baseman, Mike Moustakas.
Joe Nathan: Hard luck back-to-back infield singles by speedy Royals runners put Nathan and the Tigers into an early pressure situation. Cheered on by fans, Nathan struck out the first batter, caught the Royals attempting a double-steal and picked off Jarrod Dyson at second base and slammed the door on the Royals with a swinging strikeout of Salvador Perez.
Relevant once again: view from Ned Yost's mirror ... pic.twitter.com/dLZidkSqwx— HookSlide (@HookSlideBYB) September 10, 2014
Nick Castellanos: The rookie third baseman struck out three times. There's not much more you can say about that, except it wasn't a good day at the plate.
Victor Martinez: He was unusually quiet at the plate, finishing 0-3 with a walk.
Joba Chamberlain: Brought in to replace Blaine Hardy who walked the leadoff man in the eighth on six pitches. With one out Chamberlain allowed a ground-rule double but got the next two to groundout, allowing one run to score that was charged to Hardy. He also narrowly avoided what could have been a three-run home run that hooked foul at the last minute.
Joakim Soria will be activated from the disabled list on Wednesday after missing a month of playing time for a right pectoralis strain.
In the sixth inning Rajai Davis was picked off at first base, ending the inning. Ausmus challenged the call but after further review of 1:20, the call stood and Davis was out. (MLB.com video)
Cabrera was relegated to designated hitting duties again, and he made the most of his time. He tossed a ball to Lions wide receiver, Calvin Johnson, aka "Megatron," who was sitting three rows behind home dugout and made a nice catch.
STREAKS AND STATS:
- Victor Martinez was issued his 26th intentional walk of the season, increasing the Tigers' AL-leading 44th intentional walk as a team. The sacrifice fly by J.D. Martinez was the Tigers' MLB-leading 56th sacrifice fly of the season.
- Victor Martinez's intentional walk allowed him to reach base safely in 28 straight games, the longest active streak in the majors.
- Alex Avila drew a walk in the second inning, giving him 55 walks and placing him within one of Miguel Cabrera (56) for second place with the most walks on the team. Victor Martinez leads the Tigers with 61. Cabrera got his 56th walk in the second inning.
- Rajai Davis's home run in the second inning was his eighth of the season, his first since August 24, and just his second since his walk-off grand slam against the Oakland Athletics on June 30.
- Torii Hunter's second-inning single gave him three consecutive multi-hit games. In his last five games Hunter is 10-20 with two doubles, five runs scored and two RBI.
- J.D. Martinez's home run was his 20th of the season, giving the Tigers three players with 20-or-more home runs. It's the first time the Tigers have had three players with 20-or-more home runs in a season since 2009 (Cabrera, Granderson, Inge). The Tigers also join the Brewers and the Orioles as the only teams in the majors with three players with 20-or-more home runs.
- In 12 games against the Royals this season, J.D. Martinez is hitting .475 with five home runs and 15 RBI.
- With 6 2/3 innings pitched Tuesday night, Scherzer recorded 200 1/3 innings pitched for the season, giving him two straight seasons with 200-or-more innings pitched.
- Scherzer has recorded a quality start in 11 of his last 15 outings. He is the first pitcher to have three straight seasons with 16-or-more wins since Johan Santana from 2004-2006.
- Joe Nathan collected his ninth season with 30-or-more saves with his 30th save Tuesday night. His nine seasons with 30-or-more saves are tied with Billy Wagner for fourth-most in major league history. Only Mariano Rivera (15), Trevor Hoffman (14) and Lee Smith (10) have recorded more 30-save seasons.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
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