Scherzer can't get No. 20 again, but Tigers pull out win on Avila's 2 HRs
Max Scherzer failed at his first three tries to win game No. 20, and earned a no-decision again Sunday, as the Royals tied the game an inning after he left.
Alex Avila, though, single-handedly provided the offense for his batterymate, his second home run of the game -- an eighth-inning solo shot -- providing the game-winning score in a 3-2 win.
The Tigers (86-63) cut the magic number to eliminate the Indians to nine games, and the number to eliminate the Royals (78-71) to six.
The offense, which had been Scherzer’s best friend through the first three quarters of the season, hasn’t done its part lately.
Despite an MLB-best 6.81 runs of support per start, in his previous three tries at No. 20, he’s received two total runs of support.
Sunday, he got early support from a second-inning, two-run homer by Avila -- his 10th of the season -- but little more.
The Tigers had 11 hits through the first five innings, but that was the only one that produced runs, a common problem for them both against the Royals, and this month.
Of their 10 shutouts (double the combined total of 2011 and 2012), three of them came against Kansas City, as did two of the Tigers’ four 1-0 losses. Saturday’s game, behind a gem by Ervin Santana, marked KC’s first 1-0 win in Detroit since 1986.
Nine of the 19 games between the Tigers and Royals were settled by one run.
“Well, it’s unbelievable. I think we went four times 1-0. That’s hard to do. Some of that is, probably overall, our lack of speed. I know there was a game in Pittsburgh we got four hits in one inning, and didn’t score a run. So some of that’s who’s on the bases, and stuff like that. That’s some of it. Some of it is really good pitching, like Santana was last night,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
“There’s been quite a few games where we got quite a few hits, and we didn’t score a whole lot of runs. Sometimes 11 hits and two runs, or something. That’s pretty uncommon.
“That’s why I’ve said all along, we normally score when we hit doubles and hit it over the fence.”
In the two weekend games, the Tigers amassed 20 hits (13 of them Sunday) and got just two runs to show for it.
Any runs helped, though.
But Scherzer helped himself, too.
After posting a 6.19 ERA in those three earlier attempts at No. 20 -- and allowing opponents to hit .297 off him -- Scherzer was sterling on Sunday.
He retired the first nine straight before giving up an Alex Gordon home run to lead off the fourth. After a single by Emilio Bonifacio in the next at-bat, Scherzer would strike out the next five, and retire seven straight before a one-out single by Gordon in the sixth. He’d strike out eight of 10 batters in the three-inning span.
It was the seventh time this season Scherzer struck out double digits, the most since Justin Verlander did it seven times in 2009.
Scherzer’s biggest jam came in his final inning, when he gave up a one-out single to Salvador Perez, followed by a double by the left-handed-hitting Mike Moustakas. With runners at second and third, Scherzer got Lorenzo Cain to fly out to right field, then got Jarrod Dyson to ground out to end the threat, and keep it a one-run game.
Drew Smyly gave up the tying run in the eighth, after allowing an Alcides Escobar leadoff double. Smyly got Gordon to fly out, then struck out Bonifacio, but Escobar stole third on the final pitch of that at-bat. That would prove costly, as it allowed Escobar to scamper home on a wild pitch, tying the game at 2-2.
Avila went for the ball, but collided with the batter, Hosmer, both men tumbling to the ground. Avila would atone for the play in the bottom of the inning.