Game 43: Scherzer overshadowed, not overlooked
Max Scherzer deserved more mention than he received out of Tuesday’s 5-1 Tigers win over the Indians, but some guy named Cabrera stole the show with a line-drive home run to straightaway center at Progressive Field.
He didn’t see it. He heard the swing and the crowd reaction and knew what happened. But he has seen plenty of them over the years. He knows enough about them to realize if he could hold the Indians down after their first-inning run, he had a very good chance of ending up on top.
“Their starter was throwing the ball well, keeping our hitters at bay. I just knew if I could continue to throw up zeroes, eventually we’ll get to him,” Scherzer said. “I just have confidence in our hitters like that, because they’re so good. At any point, they can strike.
“Tonight was a perfect example. Dirks hits a home run, Torii hits a double and then Miggy hits a bomb, and all of a sudden, we’re losing 1-0, now we’re up 3-1. That’s what makes us so dangerous.”
That’s what makes Scherzer’s outings so production. With eight innings of one-run ball, he’s 6-0 for the second time in three years.
It was an unusual outing for him. It’s not that he has never been on a roll like that before, but his roll of 22 consecutive outs began without a strikeout for the first 10 hitters of that stretch. In most outings, he gets into rolls like that because of the strikeout, even if it costs him pitches. Then he struck out seven of the last 12.
“I was throwing the ball well tonight. I thought Alex [Avila] and I were sequencing [pitches well],” Scherzer said. “They did hit a couple balls hard at people. That’s just baseball. Today they got caught. And the other batters, I did a good job of locating the ball in and away and changing speeds. I thought that’s what allowed me to be successful tonight.”
Scherzer tried to be less predictable, throwing back-to-back changeups when hitters might be expecting fastballs, or throwing his recently-developed curveball more often against left-handed hitters. All of his pitches were working, he felt.
He felt like he settled into a groove as soon as the leadoff hitter in the second inning, Jason Giambi, who fouled out behind third base on a 3-1 pitch.
“I felt I was able to slow the game, take a deep breath and execute that 3-1 pitch,” Scherzer said. “I felt like after that, I was able to settle down and locate my fastball. From then, I was able to execute pitches. I felt like I had all four pitches, fastball, curveball, changeup, slider. That’s what allowed me to be successful.”
For those watching, it looked like playing catch at times. For Scherzer, his groove was a thought process more than anything.
“For me, you’re just concentrating on which hitter’s up and the sequencing you need to do, what pitches you want to start him with and what pitches you want to finish him,” Scherzer said. “You’re constantly working with Alex, what his game plan is, what my game plan is, how we wanted to attack them. Tonight I felt like we did a good job of blending the two games together. There’s times I trusted him and there’s times I felt like I had the right pitch. And between the two of us, we were able to consistently throw the right pitch. When you have that type of execution, good things can happen.”
Play of the game: It would be difficult not to give that honor to Cabrera for his go-ahead two-run homer on a pitch diving down and away. Check out the game story for more.
Outs of the game: Scherzer told manager Jim Leyland he was fine to pitch the eighth, and he didn’t disappoint. Knowing it was his last inning, he combined his adrenaline with his philosophy that the last 15 pitches are the most important of the game. He then proceeded to strike out of the bottom third of the Indians lineup in order.
“I definitely had the adrenaline flowing in that situation,” Scherzer said. “With Giambi up, you know he’s a great hitter, anytime he can strike. I think I started him off with two changeups and was able to finish him with a fastball. Those types of sequencing in those type of at-bats, when you go back in that situation when you know that’s your last inning, to go back and throw as hard as you can, you try to collect outs.”
Strategy: After Torii Hunter’s ninth-inning groundout advanced Andy Dirks and Omar Infante to second and third base, respectively, Terry Francona opted to intentionally walk Cabrera and take his chances against Prince Fielder. Fielder’s single scored another vital insurance run, making it a 5-1 game. It’s the second time in four games Fielder has followed an intentional walk to Cabrera with an RBI hit.
Line of the night: Scherzer’s pitching’s line was just outanding — 8 innings, 2 hits, a run, a walk and 7 strikeouts.
Stat of the night: 28 — career home runs for Miguel Cabrera against Cleveland, most for him against any opponent.
Print it: “He’s a hard guy to get out. No matter when he’s up there, no matter what the situation is, he’s a tough guy to get out. When he grinds that at-bat out, it’s something to see.” — Jim Leyland on Cabrera