Tigers pitching leads to series win over Angels
DETROIT — Sometimes cliches are useful because they are true and baseball has plenty of them.
Here's one that applied in the Tigers' four-game series against the Los Angeles Angels: "Good pitching beats good hitting."
On Thursday, Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer (9-5) held down the second-best hitting team in the American League in a 5-1 victory. He allowed one run on three hits, walked four and struck out nine in seven innings of action to help Detroit (49-44) finish the series a successful 3-1 against the Angels (50-43).
"We shut down a powerhouse," manager Jim Leyland said. "This is really a good team. And they got a lot of nice combinations of power and speed, and it’s pretty impressive. And it’s pretty impressive, to do what we did, win three out of four. I’m tickled."
Leyland left no doubt as to why the Tigers won the series finale.
"The key today was Scherzer," Leyland said. "That’s why I keep talking about pitching, pitching, pitching. That’s going to be the difference, and that’s what it was today."
It was the difference the entire series. Sure, the Tigers hitters were able to make up for Rick Porcello in the first game when he allowed five runs in 5 2/3 innings. But Doug Fister and Scherzer were completely dominant Wednesday and Thursday and the outcomes were very similar.
In the one loss, a 13-0 debacle Tuesday, young Jacob Turner witnessed the Angels' firepower first-hand as he allowed seven runs in two innings.
"That's a very good lineup," Scherzer said. "You know one through nine they can do a lot of different things, speed, power, they got tons of different types of hitters but they're all good hitters. To be able to come out there, to be able to go seven innings, only give up one run, that's a pretty good start for me."
The way Fister and Scherzer worked also allowed the defense to perform effectively.
"We’re not on defense long," said Prince Fielder, who had two hits Thursday and scored a run. "We’re in the dugout and we have more opportunities to score runs when we get quick outs on defense. It’s always good when the pitchers are locked in."
The one run the locked-in Scherzer gave up was a solo home run to the incomparable Mike Trout, the 20-year-old rookie who's a shoo-in for the AL Rookie of the Year award.
Despite his home run, Trout was the one impressed with Scherzer as he struck out in his other two at-bats against the righty.
"The way he was throwing, I don’t think anyone could’ve done much against him today," Trout said. "He was throwing in the upper 90s with two other great pitches. It made it difficult to come up with a good plan against him.
"There wasn’t a lot to be had."
Scherzer's ERA has gone from 23.62 after his first start to a season-best 4.61 after Thursday's game.
Scherzer, who did not look as good his last outing in Baltimore when he lacked his usual fastball command, said he sometimes struggles after the All-Star break. Perhaps it's because he's out of his normal routine.
On Thursday he righted whatever was wrong.
"He had a great fastball, like he always does, and always key for him is being able to get the off-speed stuff over for strikes and he did that," catcher Alex Avila said. "He was able to mix it up, keep them off-balance. He's got unbelievable stuff. He's shown this year he's one of the best in the game, that's for sure."
The Tigers have won 10 of their last 12 to move five games above .500 and are two games behind the Chicago White Sox, who play Thursday night before coming to Detroit Friday.
As it has always been, it'll come down to who pitches better, which of late has been the Tigers.
"We’ve looked like a good team recently, and that’s basically the reason why," Leyland said. "Go out there on a consistent basis, and give your team a chance to win the game. When you pitch like that, you normally look like a good team."