Scherzer, Nathan deliver against Angels
The Tigers got just what they needed from their starter and their closer Thursday night.
Max Scherzer overcame one tough inning to improve to 12-3 and beleaguered closer Joe Nathan had a perfect ninth as the Tigers (57-42) defeated the Los Angeles Angels (60-41), 6-4.
The victory snapped a six-game losing streak in Anaheim and helped the Tigers improve their major-league best road record to 31-17.
Scherzer allowed three runs on six hits while walking one and striking out 11.
It is the fourth time this season that Scherzer has had double-digit strikeouts and the 22nd time in his career.
Since 2012, Scherzer has 16 games with 10 or more strikeouts, second only to the Texas Rangers’ Yu Darvish, who has 25.
The Angels scored all three runs off of Scherzer in the fifth inning.
"He got up in the zone a little bit over the middle of the plate on a couple pitches and they took advantage of it, which is what good hitters do," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus told FOX Sports Detroit’s John Keating on the post-game show. "Luckily he was able to kind of stem the tide there and get through seven."
Scherzer followed up his 29-pitch fifth inning with a smooth, eight-pitch sixth.
In five career starts against the Angels, Scherzer has a 2.00 ERA with 21 hits allowed, nine walks and 47 strikeouts.
"I liked that he was aggressive with his fastball," FOX Sports Detroit analyst Craig Monroe said of Scherzer. "He dialed it up. It was at 96-97 early in this game, that playoff atmosphere that we were talking about. He was fired up."
Equally as impressive as Scherzer’s outing was the Tigers’ offense against Angels ace Garrett Richards.
After the Angels had taken a 3-1 lead in the fifth, the Tigers took back the lead by scoring three against Richards in the sixth on Torii Hunter’s RBI double and Nick Castellanos’ two-RBI double.
"What makes him so good is he has such good life on his fastball," Castellanos told Keating on the field after the game. "I knew that coming in so really, the only thing on my mind was his fastball. Both hits, including the double, were on his fastball."
Richards had not allowed more than three earned runs since May 30.
"His fastball is real live," Rajai Davis told Keating. "He’s throwing upper 90s so you have to respect that and then he had some off-speed stuff to go with that. He was trying to keep us off-balance but we have a lot of good hitters here."
The Tigers acquired Joakim Soria from the Texas Rangers Wednesday night and Soria was ready to go in the seventh but he wasn’t needed.
Nathan, who has struggled this season, came out in a save situation and struck out Howie Kendrick, David Freese and C.J. Cron, all swinging.
"This is kind of what we were hoping to see from Joe all along," Ausmus said. "He’s pitched like that a number of times but that was as good as I’ve seen his slider, I think, all year possibly.
"He pitched really well."
Nathan’s struggles have mirrored those of the entire bullpen this season. But that could be changing.
"I thought the ball was coming out of Joe Nathan’s hand extremely well (Thursday)," Monroe said. "It looked like he had a little bit more get-up on that fastball, had some real good late bite. He was dominant. This is what the Tigers thought they were getting when they signed Joe Nathan. He’s just had an up-and-down season.
"If he can continue to look like he did tonight, you add Soria in there, with Joba Chamberlain, the bullpen is starting to shape up."