Perfect Scherzer has Tigers purring
TORONTO (Reuters) - Max Scherzer's perfect season continued on Wednesday as the Detroit Tigers' big righthander improved his record to a sparkling 13-0 and confirmed his status as an elite pitcher with a 6-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
No-hitters and perfect games are pitching's great personal milestones but Scherzer's run of perfection that began in the chill of early April and has carried on into the heat of the North American summer is something not seen in major league ballparks since 1986 when Roger Clemens began his campaign 14-0.
A four-run burst in the second inning, keyed by a three-run homer from Alex Avila, was all the cushion Scherzer needed on a muggy night at the Rogers Centre to move him within two wins of the best undefeated start to a season by a pitcher since 1920.
"The record is kind of overblown in a sense just because I'm part of a great team here," Scherzer told reporters. "Every time I start they are always picking me up, they're always making plays so that's the reason I'm 13-0.
"I don't judge my season on being 13-0, I judge my season based on how I've pitched.
"I've pitched through the season very well, I'm doing a lot of things right. Am I going to be 13-0 every time I do that? No.
"But at the same time I've given my team a chance to win and they gone out every time and won."
Through much of his six-year major league career, Scherzer has been more reliable than spectacular.
He began to emerge as something more than a useful part of a solid rotation late last season, posting a career best mark of 16-7, but this year, as Detroit manager Jim Leyland points out, his righthander has been "as good as it gets".
High praise from someone who has the luxury of managing one of baseball's stingiest pitching staff featuring former-Cy Young winner Justin Verlander.
In Detroit the spotlight usually follows Verlander, a former-American League most valuable player, who became baseball's highest paid pitcher last March signing a seven-year $180 million deal.
But with Verlander (8-5) struggling this season, the humble Scherzer has stepped forward to become 'King of the Hill'.
He has not lost since September 23 last year and with his win on Wednesday tied the franchise record for most consecutive starts without a defeat, 18, set by Bobo Newsom in 1940.
"I don't want to make a big deal about it but it's hard to believe that somebody is 13-0 in this day and age," Leyland told reporters. "But he is and we'll take it, we'll accept it and we'll be happy for him and hopefully he goes 14-0."
It has been the type of performance that is certain to land Scherzer not only an invite to his first All Star Game but the honor of starting it later this month.
Looking further ahead, a Cy Young award could also be in Scherzer's future along with a massive raise with free agency on the horizon in 2014.
Drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks and traded to the Tigers in December 2009, Scherzer came into the major leagues with a limited but effective repertoire of pitches relying on a fastball/changeup.
With excellent command and the velocity to overpower hitters, Scherzer was able to get the job done but with the addition of a curveball the 28-year-old has found a place among the game's elite.
"I don't put too much stock into the win-loss record. For me at times it can be a fluky stat," said Scherzer. "Tonight my team really picked me up. Only one walk through six plus innings tonight and when you do that you give your team a chance to win.
"Everyone did their job tonight and that's what's exciting."
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)