Scherzer, Tigers shut out Phillies, 10-0
DETROIT -- Jim Leyland doesn't usually get to manage games in late July like a spring-training exhibition.
When he got the chance on Saturday, he took full advantage.
Miguel Cabrera? In his first game back from a hip injury, he only played four innings. Of course, by that point he had a homer and three RBI.
Max Scherzer? He threw a season-low 75 pitches in six innings, only allowing a single baserunner, before getting his own quick shower and improving to 15-1.
A rare two-inning appearance for Al Alburquerque? Sure. How about little-used Evan Reed pitching the ninth inning? Why not?
Those are the luxuries afforded to a manager whose team is up 8-0 after the second inning, facing a team not exactly inclined to put up a lot of resistance. The Phillies have been devastated by injuries, including staff ace Cliff Lee, who had been expected to duel Scherzer on Saturday night. Instead, the Tigers were able to maul Raul Valdes, who was making just the third start of his career at the age of 35.
The Cuban defector came into the game with a tricky side-arm delivery, but a fastball that topped out in the mid-80s. He did retire Austin Jackson and Torii Hunter to start the game. At that point, he probably should have retired himself.
Instead, he put everything he had behind three straight 87-mph fastballs to Cabrera. The reigning MVP, who hadn't played since Monday, watched the first two pitches carefully, then blasted the third one over the Tigers bullpen for his 32nd homer of the year.
"I was feeling OK, so I was thinking that I might as well go play," said Cabrera, who will consult with Leyland in the morning before deciding about playing on Sunday. "I didn't want to do too much today. I just tried to make contact with the ball."
The next three batters singled off Valdes, who wasn't fooling anyone with his slow, slower and slowest pitching style, and Matt Tuiasosopo launched a 76-mph changeup into the shrubbery in center field. It was measured at 438 feet -- the longest of Tuiasosopo's major-league career -- and gave Detroit a comfortable 5-0 lead.
Valdes finally got the third out of the inning, but things didn't go much better in the second. Cabrera hit an RBI single -- No. 98 on the season -- and Victor Martinez added a two-run single. 8-0 Tigers.
Cabrera had an RBI groundout in the fourth, upping the margin to nine runs and his personal total to 99 RBI. That was enough for Leyland, who had Ramon Santiago at third base for the fifth.
"I don't normally take my guys out with big leads -- I've never felt comfortable about doing that -- but with a guy coming off an injury, it makes a lot of sense," he said. "We were being precautionary, because he's not 100 percent. He's still a special player, though. You can see that by what he did tonight."
Charlie Manuel got into the spring-training mode an inning later, making six defensive changes and getting Michael Young, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins out of the game. It didn't help. The Tigers scored again to make it 10-0, and ended up facing pitchers wearing March numbers like 63 and 79.
During all of this, Scherzer was in cruise control as he celebrated his 29th birthday. He only allowed one baserunner in his six innings, a double by Darin Ruf that sailed inches over Austin Jackson's glove as he tried to make a running catch.
"It was a 10-0 game, so there wasn't much left for me to accomplish tonight," Scherzer said. "This gives me a chance to regroup, with seven days off because of the schedule coming up. We just decided to take a breather."
Scherzer isn't about to gloat about his record -- he is the first to credit his teammates with his huge major-league lead in run support -- but the Phillies were happy to talk about him.
"There ain't a lot about 15-1 that isn't good," the always-folksy Manuel said. "I liked him when he was in Arizona, and he's gotten better. He's got a lot of pitches and he can step up with all of them, and he can step down with all of them, so you never know what you are going to get."
Scherzer's dominance and Philadelphia's general lack of interest -- they only managed two baserunners in the last seven innings -- meant that the birthday boy was going to get a chance to celebrate before midnight.
"That was the philosophy tonight," he said. "I had things to do."