Scherzer ready for 'rowdy' Oakland atmosphere
Leyland tabs 20-game winner for Game 1; Verlander good with Game 2 nod
DETROIT -- The Tigers named Max Scherzer to be their starter for Game 1 of the American League Division Series against the Athletics on Friday at 9:30 p.m. ET on TBS.
Scherzer, the favorite to win the AL Cy Young Award, had a 21-3 record with a 2.90 ERA and an AL-best 0.97 WHIP this season. He struck out 240 in 214 1/3 innings.
"I truly feel that I could start any one of my guys and I would feel comfortable," manager Jim Leyland said Tuesday. "But I think the kind of year Scherzer's had, I'm sure somebody can find something wrong with this choice, but I think that's kind of hard to argue."
Justin Verlander, the 2011 AL Cy Young winner and owner of a 137-77 record in the regular season and a 6-4 mark in postseason play in his career, will start Game 2 on Saturday.
"It doesn't matter to me," Verlander said. "The day my number is called, I'm going to go out there and pitch. Obviously it's a coach's decision, and if it was me, I'd probably make the same decision because Max had a magical season. When a guy has a season like that and everything is going right, why not ride it? Like I said, if I was in their shoes, I'd do the same thing. We're all a team here for a single goal, to win the World Series."
Verlander has started the first game of nearly every postseason series since the World Series in 2006, but he told the coaching staff he understood if the team went in a different direction for the series opener on Friday.
"I actually made a point of it," Verlander said. "I talked to [pitching coach Jeff Jones] and I knew they would be talking about it coming up soon. I told him, 'Hey, do I want to start Game 1? Absolutely, but I understand what's going on here.' Like I said, our goal is to win a World Series. I said, 'If you guys think Max is the best call to go Game 1, I have no problem with that whatsoever.' I'm a team player; you put your ego aside."
The Tigers will send out Anibal Sanchez in Game 3 and Doug Fister in Game 4, if necessary. Leyland hasn't announced a Game 5 starter but said Scherzer would be the most likely option, though Verlander remains a possibility because he could pitch Game 5 on regular rest.
Scherzer went 9-2 on the road this season with a 2.28 ERA and 129 strikeouts in 110 1/3 innings. He pitched in Game 4 of last year's ALDS against the A's, striking out eight in 5 1/3 innings while giving up one unearned run. He's excited for another chance to pitch in Oakland.
"It's going to be rowdy," Scherzer said. "It's going to be loud. I'm just relishing this opportunity because I had so much fun playing in that atmosphere. I think they even said they were opening up more seats this year, so it's going to be even louder. I can only imagine. This is what you play the game for. You play to be in these situations."
Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.