Max Scherzer gets his 20th win of the season

BY foxsports • September 20, 2013

DETROIT -- Twenty wins.

It’s quite a calling card for a pitcher. And on Friday night, Detroit Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer became a card-carrying member of the club.

Scherzer beat the Chicago White Sox 12-5 to push his record to 20-3 after failing to reach the magic number in his last four starts. He leads the majors in victories, and became just the eighth Tigers pitcher in the last 50 years to win 20 games.

Scherzer would admit that the achievement was “special,” but then qualify each answer to a question about the milestone by stressing that his teammates were central to the victories. He said it will all mean more after the season.

“We had a nice little champagne toast to celebrate,” said Scherzer, “and
that’s nice because they are the ones who got you here.”

However, Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter made it clear that it meant very much to Scherzer in the company of his teammates.

“Oh, it means a lot to him,” said Hunter, who went 4-for-5 in the game. “He was freaking happy -- a kid in a candy store.

“That toast was a great moment. We all cheered him on and started screaming and jumping up and down with him in the middle, hitting him in the ribs. It was a special moment for him, and we’re all happy he got it.”

Justin Verlander (24-5, 2011) and Bill Gullickson (20-9, 1991) are the only Tigers to win 20 in the last quarter-century, and the others to reach that total since 1962 are Denny McLain, Earl Wilson, Mickey Lolich, Joe Coleman and Jack Morris.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” said Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones. “It’s really difficult to win 20 games in the big leagues. He’s been tremendous all year. I could not be happier for him. I am ecstatic for him.”

Scherzer has branded himself as special in a season in which he started the All-Star Game and became only the third pitcher to be 19-1 after 20 decisions, joining Roger Clemens and Hall of Famer Rube Marquard.

But he was stuck on 19 since Aug. 24 before getting 20 on the fifth try. Still, despite what everyone else was saying about his win total, Scherzer insisted on not getting too excited about it for media members.

“You try to get to the World Series and win the World Series,” Scherzer said. “You don’t get caught up in personal accomplishments. The thought of something bigger is what motivates you.”

Still, it was deemed worthy of a toast and celebration akin to those after championships are won.

While Tigers bats cooled off considerably in Scherzer’s last three starts to produce a total of five runs, this game was more typical of his season. He entered this one leading all AL pitchers with 6.7 runs per nine innings.

Torii Hunter drove in three runs and pushed his average to .299. Knocking in a pair apiece were Prince Fielder (105 RBIs), Andy Dirks (three hits) and Victor Martinez (13th homer).

However, while Scherzer has been given enough offense to win, he’s also given his team a very good chance to win in all but seven starts. This was his 24th quality start.

“To get 20 wins is pretty impressive,” said Hunter. “... Whenever Max is starting, there’s another No. 1 or No. 2 going against him.”

Former Tiger outfielder Avisail Garcia, after fouling off three consecutive two-strike pitches in an excellent at-bat, pulled a two-run homer high and deep in the fourth inning for the only significant damage.  Scherzer went six innings on a warm, rainy evening, allowing three runs on six hits while striking out a season-low three batters.

However, Scherzer pushed his strikeout total to 230 -- just one shy of his career-high in 2012 -- and trails only Texas Rangers ace Yu Darvish (260) in that category in the majors. His earned run average of 3.00 ranks fifth in the AL, where teammate and Sunday starter Anibal Sanchez leads at 2.51.

So, his Cy Young Award credentials definitely are in order.

“You are always leaning toward your own players,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, “but he deserves if ... If I had a vote, I’d vote for Max. He’s had one of those years. We’ve scored some runs for him, but he’s been terrific.”

Scherzer has been the definition of what Leyland calls “a horse” -- a pitcher who piles up innings (207 1/3) as well as wins and strikeouts.

Detroit -- with its magic number now three with eight games to play -- has plenty of aces up its sleeve. And Scherzer is dealing better than anyone as a card-carrying member of the 20-win club.


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