DETROIT — Max Scherzer was without his best stuff Wednesday night, but he fought through six innings en-route to a win on his last regular start of the season. Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera each homered and the bullpen was lights-out, handing the Tigers a 4–2 win over the Twins in the series opener.
The bullpen was active throughout much of the game. Scherzer (W, 18–5) started strong in the first inning, but he began to struggle soon after. Scherzer was unable to find the strike zone often, yet he accumulated nine strikeouts at the same time, an odd combination of inefficiency and perseverance.
But even though he finished with 105 pitches after five innings, Scherzer emerged for a sixth inning, determined to finish his final outing of the regular season with a quality start at 116 pitches. Scherzer did just that, even though he wasn't happy with how he got there.
"I fell behind too many of their hitters, and when you do that, inevitably it leaves you in position to get to those three-ball counts," Scherzer said. "And anything can happen when you're in 3–2 counts. That's where I need to be better, be more efficient early in the count. If I can do that, that's when I have my success."
The Tigers offense worked well enough, but it was Victor Martinez and Miguel Cabrera who lifted the offense. Each hit a home run, Martinez a two-run homer and Cabrera a solo shot. Rajai Davis, who has been hitting well lately, was up to his usual antics, driving in the final run of the evening with an RBI double.
As a result of the two previous games resulting in solid starts, the Tigers' bullpen was well rested. Whether it was a result of rest or a stellar night, the bullpen clinched down on the Twins, unrelentingly retiring one batter after another. Joakim Soria was dominant yet again, keeping the seventh inning free of panic and concern as he faced the Twins' 1-2-3 hitters. Joba Chamberlain, who has struggled at times in the second half of the season, returned to his former self.
"They did a nice job, all three of those guys," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "Seventh, eighth, and ninth did an outstanding job. Good innings, threw strikes, quick innings, very efficient. Really, that's how you wanna line it up."
In a bizarre turn of events, Joe Nathan not only locked down the ninth, he left no room for debate for a night. Nathan threw eight pitches, all of them for strikes and he struck out two batters on three pitches each. Interestingly, Nathan wasn't sure of the status of his "stuff."
"Today was smooth," Nathan said. "The results worked out. Was it my best stuff? I don't know about that. I threw pretty good."
Max Scherzer: He needed 116 pitches without his best stuff, but Scherzer battled through six innings to strike out nine Twins, allowing just five hits and surrendering only two runs for a quality start.
Victor Martinez: In the first inning on a 1–2 pitch, Martinez drilled a two-run home run onto the Belle Tire canopy beyond right field, giving the Tigers an early 2–0 lead. (MLB.com video) He also hit a two-out double in the sixth inning.
Miguel Cabrera: A hung 0–2 slider was launched by Cabrera about 10 rows deep into the left field seats, past the visiting bullpen. The home run increased the Tigers' lead to 3–0. (MLB.com video)
Rajai Davis: The living roadrunner has been mashing baseballs lately and wreaking havoc on the basepaths. Thursday night Davis continued that, Finishing 2-for-3 with an RBI double and a stolen base. (MLB.com video)
The bullpen: Used appropriately, the bullpen comprised of Joakim Soria, Joba Chamberlain, and Joe Nathan in the seventh, eighth, and ninth innings respectively, shut down the Twins nine-up and nine-down. Soria needed just 16 pitches for three stress-free outs, Chamberlain struck a batter out in his 15 pitches of work, and Nathan slammed the door with eight pitches, all strikes, with two strikeouts.
Nick Castellanos: Missed the Golden Sombrero by one at-bat, finishing 0-for-4 with three strikeouts.
Ian Kinsler: Finished 0-for-3 with a strikeout and reaching on an error.
J.D. Martinez: Was intentionally walked in the sixth but finished 0-for-3 for the night.
White Sox manager Robin Ventura fired back at Ausmus about comments made regarding the incident involving Chris Sale in the sixth inning Wednesday. Ventura adamently defended his ace, stating that Ausmus should look at his own players rather than call Sale "weak." After the game Ausmus said he had nothing negative to say in response to Ventura.
"I don't really have a comment," Ausmus said. "I like Robin Ventura a lot, he's one of the better guys I've ever met in the game. I have nothing negative to say about Robin Ventura."
During the game Anibal Sanchez was throwing in the bullpen, but he did not pitch in the game. Ausmus said he hadn't gotten called for Sanchez and that Sanchez was throwing on his own to stay loose.
"I definitely wanna get him in, I think he does need to get in there," Ausmus said. "We were looking for opportunities the last two days. I'm a little hesitant to throw him first inning out of the pen into the fire of a one-run game in the seventh, but we do have to get him in there."
STREAKS AND STATS:
- Victor Martinez hit a two-run home run in the first inning on a 1–2 pitch for his 32nd home run of the season. Martinez's 32 home runs are tied for the second-most by a switch hitter in franchise history, and are the most since Tony Clark hit 32 in 1997.
- Martinez also hit a two-out double in the sixth inning, his 65th extra-base hit of the season.
- Torii Hunter's one-out double in the first inning extended his hitting streak to 11 games.
- Miguel Cabrera hit his 24th home run of the season in the fourth inning. The home run was Cabrera's 251st as a Tiger, and the 389th homer of his career, tying him with Johnny Bench for 59th in MLB history.
- J.D. Martinez was intentionally walked in the seventh inning, marking just the fifth time this season he's been intentionally walked.
- Since his first three rough outings with the Tigers, Joakim Soria has a mere 0.99 ERA in 9 1/3 innings. He's allowed just one run on four hits and has struck out three batters while allowing no walks. Opposing batters are hitting under .150 against Soria.
- Victor Martinez finished the night with a home run, a double and a single, finishing a triple shy of the cycle. It is Martinez's 14th game of the season with three-or-more hits.
- Max Scherzer struck out nine batters Thursday night, giving him 252 strikeouts for the season. The strikeouts are sixth-most for a Tigers pitcher in a single season. He trails only Mickey Lolich (308, 1971), Denny McLain (280, 1968), Hal Newhouser (275, 1946), Mickey Lolich (271, 1969), and Justin Verlander (269, 2009).
- Tigers starting pitchers have compiled a 4–2 record, a 2.66 ERA in 47 1/3 innings pitched, allowing 14 earned runs, and throwing 39 strikeouts in the last seven games.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
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