Though Max Scherzer has a chance to win seven straight starts for the first time, his main focus Wednesday is to prevent the Detroit Tigers from being swept by the Cleveland Indians.
The reigning AL Cy Young award winner hopes to do both and continue his recent success at Progressive Field.
Since giving up four runs in five innings of a 5-1 loss at San Diego on April 13, Scherzer (6-1, 1.83 ERA) has yielded six over 39 innings to win six straight starts for the second consecutive season. For the third time in four outings Friday, Scherzer did not allow a run, lasting six-plus innings and enduring a 47-minute rain delay during the 1-0 victory at Boston.
"This might have been the best his stuff has been all year,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said.
Scherzer, however, hopes to be more efficient after walking four batters for the second straight outing
"It’s always going to drive me crazy when I’m not throwing first-pitch strikes and when I’m walking guys,” said Scherzer, who struck out seven and yielded three hits.
The right-hander went 0-3 with a 7.48 ERA in his first four starts at Cleveland, but is 3-0 with a 2.17 ERA in four there since.
Detroit (27-14) had won five in a row and 11 of 13 at Progressive Field prior to Monday’s 5-4, 10-inning loss. The Tigers, whose 11-game road winning streak also ended in the opener, were last swept in Cleveland from May 22-24, 2012.
Mike Aviles’ two-run double highlighted a four-run second and Trevor Bauer allowed two runs in six-plus innings to outpitch Justin Verlander in Tuesday’s 6-2 victory.
The Indians (21-25) have rebounded after totaling eight runs during a four-game skid that preceded this series.
With a single Tuesday, Cleveland’s Michael Brantley is batting .400 during a 17-game home hitting streak – one shy of the ballpark record shared by Kenny Lofton in 1996 and Roberto Alomar in 2000.
Brantley, however, went 1 for 8 versus Scherzer last season.
Scheduled Indians starter Zach McAllister (3-4, 5.36) posted a 1.37 ERA while winning three straight starts from April 9-21, but is 0-4 with an 8.72 ERA in the following five. He gave up a three-run homer, grand slam and eight runs total in the second inning of an 11-1 home loss to Oakland on Friday.
"I’m trying my hardest, but baseball is a game of peaks and valleys, and I’m down right now,” said McAllister, who lasted 1 1-3 innings in that contest.
Manager Terry Francona appears confident in the right-hander, at least for now.
"He’s going to have to be strong enough to look at these numbers of late and remind himself how good he is," Francona said. "He has to understand he is a good pitcher.”
McAllister yielded a run in six innings of a 3-2 victory at Detroit on April 16 after going 0-2 with a 9.00 ERA in three starts against the Tigers last season.
Miguel Cabrera is 2 for his last 8 against McAllister, but batting .406 during a 15-game road hitting streak.
Teammate Victor Martinez is 6 for 11 with three doubles versus McAllister. He batted .373 during his own 15-game road hitting streak that ended with an 0-for-3 night Tuesday.