DETROIT — The better Max Scherzer pitches this season, the more money he’s going to make in the winter.
Right now, no one at Comerica Park is worried about that.
With the Tigers looking at a five-game losing streak and the unthinkable possibility of letting another team back into the AL Central race, Scherzer did exactly what an ace is supposed to do. He pitched seven innings, allowing one run on five hits, and Detroit rode his arm and a quick offensive burst to a slump-busting 7-2 victory.
"I did a great job pounding the strike zone," Scherzer said. "I came out tonight and threw 20 of 25 first-pitch strikes, and when you can do that, you are putting the other team on their heels."
Scherzer struck out six and walked only one, and the White Sox didn’t get a runner into scoring position until the seventh inning.
"My fastball is my bread-and-butter pitch, but that’s because I can set it up with my other stuff," he said. "I had a good variety of sliders, changeups and curveballs tonight, which meant I could use everything.
"That’s a good-hitting team, so if I falter just a little bit, they can whack me. You are dealing with inches at this point. If you miss by a couple inches, they can make you pay and pay in a hurry."
The White Sox, however, never did that. Even when Alexei Ramirez and Jose Abreu led off the seventh with singles, Scherzer was able to limit the damage to one run.
"Max was extremely good tonight, which is what you expect every time you face him," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "The only way you can do anything against him is to force him to pitch in the zone, and if you do get something going, you have to take advantage of it.
"Unfortunately for the rest of us, he is very skilled at getting himself out of those situations."
Obviously, a big win is nothing new for Scherzer. He’s now 34-6 since the beginning of last season, and even though he’s correct in thinking that a pitcher’s win-loss recording is a misleading indicator of value, it isn’t meaningless, either.
Scherzer is on pace to become the first pitcher to win 80 percent of his decisions in back-to-back seasons since Preacher Roe did it for the Dodgers in 1951-52. And even when you count the games where the bullpen has picked up the decision, the Tigers have won 75 percent of his starts.
Also, it isn’t like wins and losses are the only way to measure his dominance. Since the beginning of last season, opponents are hitting .214 against Scherzer with a .269 on-base percentage and a .350 slugging percentage. That means, for 54 starts, he’s turned the average major-league hitter into Don Kelly.
Scherzer wasn’t exactly terrible before 2013, either. In his first three years in Detroit, he went 43-27 with a 3.89 ERA and struck out 589 batters in 578 innings.
That’s the kind of pitcher every team in baseball would love to have in their rotation. But now he’s turned into someone who would be the ace of any staff outside of Dodger Stadium.
So three days after his 30th birthday, Scherzer has two futures stretching ahead of him. In the short-term, especially given Justin Verlander’s struggles, he’s being counted on to pitch Detroit into the postseason and, ideally, all the way to its first World Series title in 30 years.
After that? He’s going to be an extremely wealthy young man.
For Tigers fans, the fervent hope is that he’ll still be earning that money at Comerica Park.