Tigers' Scherzer mows down Pirates in win
DETROIT — One after another, Pirates batters walked to the plate Thursday, took some swings, then turned and walked away.
Half of their plate appearances against Detroit Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer resulted in strikeouts.
Scherzer racked up a season-high 14 strikeouts, as the Tigers beat the Pirates, 5-2.
“He pitched like a Cy Young Award winner,” manager Clint Hurdle said. “The fastball maintained finish through the zone. The two-seamer, the four-seamer, the breaking ball played extremely well against right-handers. The changeup worked against left-handers.”
It was Scherzer's biggest strikeout spree since May 20, 2012, when he fanned a career-best 15 against the Pirates.
This time, Scherzer (14-4) went eight innings and gave up three hits and walked two. He threw 121 pitches.
Scherzer joined Mickey Lolich as the only Tigers pitchers to pitch eight scoreless innings, amass 14 strikeouts and allow three or fewer hits.
Scherzer outdueled Pirates lefty Francisco Liriano (3-9), who struck out nine and gave up three hits in six innings.
“I got a lot of swings and misses,” Liriano said. “I wasn't trying to do too much, just locate pitches. I was using all my pitches.”
J.D. Martinez produced the first Tigers' two runs. He hit a solo home run in the fifth inning and walked with the bases loaded in the sixth.
In the eighth, Miguel Cabrera doubled and scored on a throwing error by second baseman Michael Martinez. Nick Castellanos added a two-run single off reliever Brandon Cumpton to make it 5-0.
Those add-on runs were huge. Gaby Sanchez smacked a pinch-hit, two-run homer off Phil Coke in the ninth inning. It was Sanchez's first home run since May 26.
Pirates shortstop Jordy Mercer left the game after the seventh inning due to tightness in his right forearm. He said he first noticed it while throwing between innings.
“It started out just being something I felt in my forearm,” Mercer said. “Then, as I continued to throw, it really started tightening up. It was out of the blue. I've never had forearm problems before.”
It was the sixth time in 25 starts this season that Scherzer notched double-digit strikeouts. This year, he became the first pitcher in Tigers history to have at least seven Ks in each of his first seven starts.
The first seven outs Scherzer recorded were strikeouts. The eighth out was the back end of a double play: Chris Stewart was caught trying to steal second base when Martinez muffed a hit-and-run by taking a called third strike.
After Stewart was nabbed, Gregory Polanco ended the third inning by whiffing on an 0-2 slider in the dirt.
In the first inning, Scherzer thew 14 pitches — 11 fastballs and three sliders. In the second, he mixed in some changeups to wipe out Pedro Alvarez. By the fourth, Scherzer also was breaking off obscene curveballs to thoroughly confound the batters.
Despite all of the strikeouts, the Pirates had two scoring chances against Scherzer. Starling Marte doubled with one out in the second, and Travis Snider doubled to lead off the fourth. Neither runner made it any further.
Rob Biertempfel is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.
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