Tigers' co-ace Scherzer rested, ready for Game 4
Since struggling in April, right-hander is 15-4 with a 3.04 ERA
DETROIT -- Max Scherzer was forced to adjust his routine at the last minute on Wednesday night. When the Tigers starter learned that Game 4 of the American League Championship Series had been postponed due to rain, he quickly made his way to the field.
"I hate taking days off before pitching a game," Scherzer said. "So I had to play catch."
It was a brief workout, but Scherzer deemed it sufficient for his Game 4 start against the Yankees on Thursday. Detroit holds a 3-0 edge in the ALCS, so the inclement weather gave the team one more day to daydream about a champagne celebration and clinching a place in this autumn's World Series.
Asked if it would be hard to head to bed with that on his mind for a second straight night, Scherzer cracked a smile.
"No, I slept good last night," Scherzer said. "So I'll sleep good tonight."
The right-hander will certainly be rested come Thursday's 4 p.m. ET contest at Comerica Park.
Scherzer has not taken the mound for the Tigers since Game 4 of the AL Division Series against the A's on Oct. 10. That means the pitcher will be working on seven days of rest, and doing so against Yankees ace CC Sabathia, who will be trying to keep New York's season alive for at least one more day.
Tale of the Tape: Game 4
|2012 regular season|
|Overall: 28 GS, 15-6, 3.38 ERA, 44 BB, 197 K||Overall: 32 GS, 16-7, 3.74 ERA, 60 BB, 231 K|
|Key stat: Lowest innings total since 2006 keeps the workhorse fresh||Key stat: Career high in strikeouts with fewest innings as a Tiger|
|At Comerica Park|
|2012: 2 GS, 2-0, 3.95 ERA
Career: 16 GS, 9-5, 4.26 ERA
| 2012: 14 GS, 7-3, 3.51 ERA
Career: 47 GS, 23-11, 3.45 ERA
|Against this opponent|
|2012: 3 GS, 3-0, 3.32 ERA
Career: 35 GS, 18-12, 4.43 ERA
|2012: 1 GS, 0-1, 5.79 ERA
Career: 4 GS, 3-1, 3.42 ERA
|Loves to face: Omar Infante: 6-for-29, 10
Hates to face: Miguel Cabrera: 10-for-28, 2 HR, 12 RBI, 8 BB
|Loves to face: Alex Rodriguez: 1-for-12, 4 K
Hates to face: Curtis Granderson: 4-for-15, 1 HR, 2 RBI
|Why he'll win: He's putting up playoff numbers like 2009, allowing only three earned runs in 17 2/3 innings||Why he'll win: He's a strikeout pitcher against a team that's whiffed 67 times through its first six playoffs games|
|Pitcher beware: He allowed six runs in 8 2/3 innings against Detroit in the 2011 ALDS||Pitcher beware: He allowed seven hits and walked seven over 4 2/3 innings in an April start vs. N.Y.|
|Bottom line: He's pitching like an ace, going at least eight innings in each of his past five starts||Bottom line: Limit walks against a team struggling to get hits|
The Tigers will be hoping Scherzer can punch their ticket to the team's first Fall Classic since 2006.
"I'm really excited," Scherzer said. "This is Game 4. We have a chance to go to the World Series tomorrow. That's the exciting part, the opportunity that we've got tomorrow. I can't wait for that."
Sabathia is as formidable an opponent as any in the American League, but the Tigers believe Scherzer is up to the task at hand.
"He pitched a great game for us in Oakland," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. "I think everybody expects kind of the same thing. He's going to go out there and give us the best he's got. And his best, more times than not, is usually good enough.
"It's going to be tough obviously against CC, but it's a crazy game and we might be able to scratch out a couple runs."
Given what the starting rotation has done lately -- posting a postseason record 37 2/3 scoreless innings before Eduardo Nunez's homer off Justin Verlander in the ninth inning of Game 3 on Tuesday -- they like their chances. As things currently stand, Detroit's 0.42 ERA from the rotation is the lowest in League Championship Series history.
The 0.96 ERA by Tigers starters is also a franchise record for one postseason. Detroit's 1972 rotation ranks second with a 1.79 ERA in the playoffs.
"I think pitching is contagious, just like hitting is," Verlander said. "I think that's a great thing when you can get your entire rotation doing that. And I think we're starting to click at the right time."
For Scherzer, "things starting to click" for him dates back to a sunny afternoon on April 29 at Yankee Stadium when he last faced Thursday's opponent.
Scherzer was 1-2 coming into the contest, having been tagged for 18 runs in his previous four starts to open the 2012 season. But it wasn't so much the runs that would cost him on this day. It was the historically bad efficiency.
Scherzer walked a career-high seven batters while throwing 119 pitches in 4 2/3 innings. Only three others in Major League history had thrown more pitches and issued at least as many walks without completing five innings -- the last being Tampa Bay's Victor Zambrano on May 20, 2004.
"That is one of my worst starts of the year," Scherzer said, "considering that's something I pride myself on, limiting walks. Really from that start on, it was a little bit longer after that when everything seemed to click for me, when I started getting my fastball command back."
The Yankees won't approach Scherzer the same because, after that poor start in April, he has proven to be a different pitcher. Since May 1, he's compiled a 15-4 record and 3.04 ERA, including his 5 1/3 shutout innings in Game 4 of the AL Division Series against Oakland.
Add in his 212 strikeouts since May and you're talking numbers worthy of Cy Young consideration.
Although his overall ERA likely won't garner him many Cy Young votes, his 8-2 record and 2.69 ERA after the All-Star break earned him the label of "co-ace" in Detroit, rather than just "the guy behind Justin Verlander."
He will have to live up to that title pitching opposite Sabathia. But having been pushed back because of right shoulder fatigue, a twisted ankle and the weather, Scherzer will at least be rested and primed for the occasion.
"I feel good," Scherzer said. "You know, it's kind of like Spring Training, so I am building back up. I think I will be better this time than I was last time [against Oakland]."
The 5 1/3 innings and 91 pitches against the Athletics marked his most since firing six innings on Sept. 12 in Chicago. However, he's hoping the additional time to prepare enables him to work deeper into Thursday night's game.
"I'm looking forward to getting back out there and having the full workload," he said.
The way Scherzer sees things, Wednesday's rainout was little more than an inconvenience.
"Nothing changes," said the pitcher. "I'm ready for Game 4."
Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, and follow him on Twitter @MLBastian. Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.