Everyone already knew that Detroit Tigers starter Max Scherzer was having a special season.
On Saturday on one of the national FOX broadcasts, Scherzer added something extra to the mix — a game-winning hit.
What was billed as a pitchers’ duel between Scherzer and Mets starter Matt Harvey lived up to the hype as they reprised their All-Star Game starting roles at Citi Field.
Scherzer allowed no runs on three hits while walking four and striking out 11 in six innings in the 3-0 victory, improving to 19-1 this season. That marks six games of 10-plus strikeouts for Scherzer this season.
Scherzer is just the third pitcher in major-league history to win 19 of his first 20 decisions and the first to reach that mark since Roger Clemens started 19-1 in 2001.
Scherzer has a 2.73 ERA, an 0.91 WHIP and 196 strikeouts in 178 1/3 innings.
The Mets drove his pitch count up in the sixth inning, forcing him to work out of a bases-loaded jam by striking out Juan Lagares and inducing John Buck to pop out.
But no doubt the moment Scherzer will remember most from this game came in the second inning.
After Andy Dirks had doubled and Brayan Pena had singled, Scherzer came up to bat with one out.
He squared to bunt and took the first pitch from Harvey as a ball.
The second pitch he swung and hit a 96-mile-an-hour fastball into left field for a double that scored Dirks.
Scherzer was asked which he was more excited about, his 19-1 record or RBI double.
“The RBI double against Harvey, for sure,” Scherzer told Rod Beard of the Detroit News. “I got a replay that I’m sending in a text to everybody right now. It was definitely 96, down and away and I laced it for a double.”
As Scherzer stood on second base, his teammates erupted in the dugout, applauding and cheering furiously.
“They were going nuts,” Scherzer said. “They were laughing so hard — laughing at me because I got the hit but they also realized it was an important part of the game to get a hit in that situation, especially off a guy of his caliber. I’m never going to shut up — I’m just going to keep talking trash the whole time.”
Even more amazing was the fact that manager Jim Leyland still had the bunt sign on when Scherzer hit the double.
“Actually, I was supposed to keep the bunt all the way through,” Scherzer said. “He gave me the bunt sign the first pitch and I didn’t see the bunt sign the second pitch, so I thought it was good to swing. I didn’t realize the bunt was supposed to be on throughout the whole at-bat. I went up there and tried to hit a fastball and I did, so I guess I made Skip look good.”
It was Scherzer’s first hit as a Tiger, having gone 0-for-8 previously.
Of course, Scherzer will be sure to mention the hit to teammate Justin Verlander, who remains hitless for his career.
“(Verlander) is so jealous — he can’t take it,” Scherzer said.
With the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, Scherzer was 12-for-53 (.226) with two doubles.
Harvey also gave up an RBI infield single to Austin Jackson.
But after that, Harvey did not allow another run, although he did give up a career-high 13 hits.
“I always enjoy facing the best; you measure yourself against the best and never against the worst,” Scherzer said. “You have a chance to face one of the best pitchers in the NL, you always want to bring your A game. I knew I was going to have to bring it and fortunately, today, I wasn’t as sharp as usual but I made big pitches when I needed to and that was the most important thing.”
Scherzer always says nothing is more important than the team winning, which they always seem to do when he pitches. With the win, the Tigers are 76-53, 6 games ahead of the Cleveland Indians.
“Every time I go out, I seem to pitch well and more importantly, our defense makes plays behind us and we always seem to get the big hit,” Scherzer said. “Everybody through the lineup plays well every time I take the mound and that’s the reason I’m 19-1, not because I’m pitching well, but because everybody else is stepping up and doing their job.
“It’s just fun every time I pitch because everybody does their job and it’s a team win. I don’t take the record as a personal achievement; I take it as a team achievement.”