DETROIT -- Max Scherzer had a tough act to follow Thursday. One night after Doug Fister's eight-inning, two-hit, 10-strikeout performance, the Tigers were just hoping for a win to line them up nicely for this weekend's series vs. the first-place White Sox. What they got from Scherzer was another masterpiece.
Scherzer fired seven innings of three-hit, one-run ball while striking out nine in the afternoon series finale against the Angels to give the Tigers a 5-1 win in front of a sellout crowd of 40,311 at Comerica Park.
"He was terrific," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "The last two nights we just got excellent pitching, and you always look like a good team when you do that. I mean, we shut down a powerhouse. That's a really good team."
The Angels entered the four-game set against the Tigers with the second-best record in the Majors since May 1. They continued to swing the bats well their first two days in Detroit, racking up 29 hits and 19 runs.
The final two were quite different, as Fister and Scherzer limited them to three runs on five hits in their combined 15 innings of work. The result was Detroit taking three of four and winning their fourth series in five tries.
"Fister was more of a finesse guy who located really well, kept us off-balance a number of ways," Angels outfielder Mark Trumbo said. "Today? That was filthy. There wasn't a whole lot to be had today. He was throwing in the upper-90s with two other legitimate pitches."
For Scherzer, his success usually depends on those two other pitches -- his slider and changeup. Although Scherzer called his fastball command the key to bouncing back from an ugly start against the Orioles -- he allowed nine hits and four runs through five innings -- it was the offspeed stuff, he said, that resulted in the K total.
"When I have a good slider, a good changeup and I'm able to locate those pitches, if I do get some strikeouts it's because of that," Scherzer said. "Because I'm locating offspeed well. And today was no different."
Whereas a high-strikeout performance is rare for Fister, it's become the norm for Scherzer.
With his nine K's on Thursday, Scherzer moved back to fourth in the Majors in strikeouts (134). He also became the only pitcher in the league with at least nine K's in seven starts.
"He's got unbelievable stuff," catcher Alex Avila said. "He's shown this year he's one of the best in the game, that's for sure."
To be considered one of the league's best involves some consistency. And although his ERA sits at 4.61, he's notched quality starts in seven of his past nine outings.
The right-hander didn't allow a hit until the third inning. By that time, the Tigers' offense had already spotted him a three-run lead with an RBI double by Jhonny Peralta and a two-run home run by Avila -- his first since May 22 -- in the second inning.
Detroit continued to tack on runs with Danny Worth's first RBI double of the season and Miguel Cabrera's 21st homer. But Scherzer only needed two from his offense to earn his ninth victory.
The first Angels hitter to reach second came in the fifth inning, and the only damage, a solo homer by rookie sensation Mike Trout, occurred in the sixth. He struck out the final two batters he faced before leaving the game to the bullpen.
Asked how he felt, Scherzer said: "Very good. That's a very good lineup.
"They've got tons of different hitters, but they're good hitters. To be able to come out there, go seven innings and only give up one run, that's good stuff for me."
The Tigers haven't lost a series since June 25-27 in Texas. Now they welcome the White Sox to town, and they'll have a chance to reclaim first place in the American League Central.
Leyland said he knows it will be an exciting week for the city -- especially with Justin Verlander vs. Jake Peavy to open the series Friday -- but he's viewing it as another midseason matchup.
"I'm sure it's going to be big for everybody in this community and the surrounding areas, but it's July," Leyland said. "So however it turns out, whether we do well or don't do well, it's not going to be the end of the world."
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.