Scherzer to start ALDS opener

BY foxsports • October 1, 2013

DETROIT – The suspense is over.

Detroit Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer will start Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Athletics in Oakland on Friday at 9:37 p.m. EST.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Tuesday that Justin Verlander will start Game 2 on Saturday night, while Anibal Sanchez pitches Game 3 in Detroit on Monday and Doug Fister goes in Game 4 on Tuesday if that game is necessary.

“That will be our rotation for the playoffs,” Leyland said. “Hopefully, this will lead up to a lot of conversation. But I could send five guys up there that I’d be comfortable with.”

Detroit had five starters who won between 13 and 21 games, and Rick Porcello will leave the rotation for the bullpen because only four starters are required in the postseason with the numerous off days for travel.

Having Porcello ready to relieve will be key because Leyland said that one of his top late-inning options, Bruce Rondon, is not expected to be on the club’s 25-man roster because of a tender right elbow.

“It looks like Rondon and (Phil) Coke will not be available for the first round,” Leyland said of the two injured relievers.

Leyland said he had until 11 a.m. Friday to finalize the roster, and would not speculate on the relief pitcher and bench player spots that are up for grabs.

The skipper did have some good news on starting shortstop Jose Iglesias, whose bruised left hand bothered him while batting in the final series with the Marlins in Miami.

“His hand is fine and I’m happy to announce that,” Leyland said. “That will not be an issue.”

Iglesias had little trouble playing defense, but did experience difficulty gripping the bat. He was 0-for-8 in Miami, but hit .303 for his rookie season.

Verlander, the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner, had been the easy choice as the Game 1 starter in the last two postseasons. However, he slipped to 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA. Scherzer became the winningest pitcher in baseball (21-3, 2.90 ERA, 240 strikeouts) while earning the AL All-Star Game start and setting a club single-season winning percentage mark of .875.

“If it’s me,” said Verlander, “I’m probably making the same decision ... whether it’s Game 1 or 17, I’m going to go out and do my job.

“Do I want to start Game 1? Absolutely. But I understand what’s going on, and I went up to Max and said congratulations. He’s earned it.”

Scherzer said, “I take it as an honor. But it doesn’t matter where I start.”

What matters to Scherzer is the competition, and he’s looking forward to facing the A’s and hearing their raucous fans at the Oakland Coliseum.

“Oakland’s going to be a hostile place,” Scherzer said. “They are going to be yelling at you from the moment you step on the field. It’s the most intense baseball atmosphere I’ve ever been a part of.”

And it should be louder than ever because the A’s have removed the covers from the stadium’s upper deck to sell thousands more tickets.

“I can only imagine that,” Scherzer said. “It’s going to be even more fun. It’s going to be such a rush. I have to go out as intense as they are and match it.”

Scherzer said he relishes competing amid all the hooting and hollering.

“I never get nervous no matter what,” he said with a smile. “I just keep marching forward. You always have to be relaxed and be prepared. If you are prepared, there is no reason to worry.”

Verlander said the Tigers were accustomed to coming into Oakland and finding small crowds with only pockets of vocal fans during regular season encounters. He said their 2012 ALDS frenzy caught the Tigers off guard a bit, but now they know what to expect.

“The atmosphere’s great and it’s a lot of fun to pitch there,” Verlander said. “I threw ball one there last year and they started to go nuts. They are a difference-maker – they really are.”

The Tigers took two of three games in Oakland in April, when only one crowd exceeded 21,000. Verlander got a win, while Scherzer allowed one run over six innings with no decision.

The A’s took three of four from the Tigers in Detroit in late August, and much is being made of that.

“But I remember beating the crap out of St. Louis in 2006 and that didn’t go so well,” said Verlander, recalling his rookie season, when Detroit  swept three games from the Cardinals that June at Comerica Park and later lost the World Series to them in five games.

Leyland noted that Verlander would be available for Game 5 in the event Scherzer was unable to pitch. Verlander would be pitching on his normal fifth day in that event.

“But hopefully we’re not going to a Game 5,” Verlander said. “Hopefully, we can win it in three.”

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