DETROIT — On a night when his pitching opponent was historically wild, Detroit Tigers starter Max Scherzer was anything but Tuesday — surely a welcome sign for a team in the hunt for the playoffs.
While Toronto Blue Jays starter Ricky Romero walked a career-high eight and struck out zero, Scherzer was steady in the Tigers’ 5-3 victory.
Scherzer, 28, improved to 13-6, taking over the team lead in wins from Justin Verlander, who has 12. In his seven innings, Scherzer allowed one run on five hits while walking two and striking out eight.
“He’s a hot pitcher,” manager Jim Leyland said. “He’s just scratched the surface. This guy’s a young guy, yet with a big, big future. Looks like to me. I thought he was really in control tonight, for the most part. He looked poised, he looked comfortable.
“He looked in total control.”
The eight strikeouts gave Scherzer a career high of 186, two more than he had in the entire 2010 season.
Romero, meanwhile, became the
first pitcher to walk eight with no strikeouts against the Tigers since
Washington’s Sandy Consuegra did it on June 21, 1950 at Briggs Stadium, according to research done by the Tigers media relations department.
For Scherzer, strikeouts are merely a means to an end.
“Strikeouts are nice, but at the end of the day, it comes down to the team winning,” Scherzer said. “That’s the only thing I really care about. You know, how we’re competing for the playoffs, making this playoff push, trying to get these series wins, because that’s the most important thing.”
Scherzer has won 12 of his last 15 decisions since May 10, a pace he’s going to have to continue if the Tigers are going to catch the Chicago White Sox, who beat the New York Yankees again Tuesday night.
Catcher Gerald Laird believes Scherzer is coming into his own, learning how to be a consistent big league pitcher.
“I think he’s just figuring out how good he can really be,” Laird said. “He’s having good starts and he’s just kind of keeping them rolling. He’s feeling good about his arm slot and has command of all his pitches. He’s added that curveball, that’s been a big help.”
Scherzer’s ERA is 4.27, a season low. But the hard-throwing right-hander is always looking to get better.
“I did some good things tonight,” Scherzer said. “I wish I would’ve done some other things. I wasn’t proficient with first-pitch strikes. I didn’t really throw the slider to left-handers the way I wanted to tonight. I didn’t do some other little things that typically can make me a good pitcher.”
Don’t mistake Scherzer’s self-criticism as a lack of confidence. Even when things haven’t gone well for him, he’s always believed in his ability and believed that he’ll find a way to improve.
“I know that when I go out there, I know I can be really good,” Scherzer said. “I know I can pitch consistently and I know I can get hitters out. I don’t fear a single hitter in this whole league. When I bring my A-game, I can pitch well against any team — doesn’t matter who it is.”
Romero (8-11) has lost 10 straight decisions.
Although the Tigers didn’t take advantage of Romero the way they could have or should have, Scherzer made sure that it didn’t really matter.
“He’s been really good, there’s no question about that,” Leyland said. “He pitched extremely well. Starts like that will usually give you a heck of a chance to win the game, and that’s what we did.”