Scherzer named AL All-Star starting pitcher
One of the guiding philosophies behind Max Scherzer’s emergence among baseball’s best starters is that his last 15 pitches are the most important pitches of the game. His first pitch Tuesday night, however, might be the biggest individual honor of his career.
Though Scherzer’s perfect record on the season ended on Saturday, he remained the perfect fit to start for the American League in this year’s All-Star Game. Manager Jim Leyland took care of the announcement Monday afternoon, naming his young right-hander for the honor.
“I don’t think I need to explain it any more than that,” Leyland said, citing the record.
Scherzer will be the second consecutive Tiger to start the All-Star Game, following Justin Verlander’s memorable opening inning from last year’s Midsummer Classic in Kansas City. They become the first teammates to start consecutive All-Star Games since then-Diamondbacks Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling started in 2001 and 2002, respectively.
“It means so much, especially for being my first All-Star Game to be in this position,” Scherzer said. “This is what you dream for, to get the nod and get the ball over so many great pitchers.”
For Scherzer, it’s merely the latest bit of history in a season that has forced several references to the history books. His 13-0 start was the best by a Major League pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1986, and the fourth-longest in modern Major League history. He came within a game of becoming the first Major League pitcher to go into the All-Star break with a 14-0 record.
As it is, his 13-1 record ties him for the Major League lead in wins alongside fellow All-Star Matt Moore. His 152 strikeouts and 10.55 strikeouts per nine innings rank second to Yu Darvish among AL hurlers, while his 3.19 ERA ranks ninth.
Scherzer consistently called his unbeaten start and wins total fluky, citing his pitching statistics as a better indicator of the way he has pitched. Still, his first All-Star selection clearly got to him when the rosters were announced July 6.
“When you get on these teams, when you get on good teams, you never really think about making the All-Star team,” Scherzer said last Friday, “because you’re so caught up in winning for the ballclub. For me, I’ve had some good years. Unfortunately I’ve had some streaks within those years when I didn’t quite have as good numbers to make the all-star team. But I finally feel like this year I’ve been able to put together and be consistent, and that’s the reason why I’m an All-Star this year.”
Scherzer has talked to his All-Star teammates, who have volunteered advice on how to handle the experience. The best, he said, came from first-year teammate and fifth-time All-Star Torii Hunter.
“Just enjoy it,” Scherzer said Hunter told him. “He’s just given me stories of dealing with family, dealing with friends, who makes it, who doesn’t it. It’s all the little things in that sense.”
He does not need advice on following Verlander, whose All-Star start last year ended with a five-run, four-hit opening inning. Verlander said afterwards he tried to throw hard from the outset, saying that’s what fans wanted to see.
Scherzer is not that kind of pitcher, though he can approach 100 mph with his fastball. When Scherzer was asked last weekend how he’d react if Prince Fielder tells him to throw a 101 mph fastball, Scherzer smiled.
“He’s not going to tell me that. He knows better,” Scherzer said. “That didn’t work, so we’re trying a new strategy.”
Scherzer said the ball he took off of his left wrist in Saturday’s loss should not be a factor for him.
“It hurt throughout the game,” Scherzer said, “but I was always able to pitch through it. I’ve been able to ice it and it really feels a lot better. I doubt it’ll affect me.”