Detroit Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer has had these streaks before. It’s just that this one looks as if it could be a little more permanent.
Scherzer struck out 10 Wednesday to improve to 6-1 in nine starts beginning June 28. He has tied Justin Verlander for the team lead in wins with 12.
In the past, Scherzer has struggled to limit the damage in one inning. The game frequently, but not all the time, seems to get away from him before he can escape damage.
But Wednesday was a good example of how the big right-hander is handling trouble in the last couple of months.
He was a little out of whack in the first inning but gave up just one single.
In the second, though, Scherzer walked Justin Morneau on a 3-2 pitch, then threw four straight balls to Ryan Doumit that put runners on first and second with nobody out.
Scherzer was 2-0 on Trevor Plouffe until catcher Alex Avila got him back into the strike zone with a slider. Plouffe ended up striking out on a 98 mph 2-2 fastball, and the next two batters also struck out.
Max had gotten mad.
“After that second inning I was frustrated with myself,” Scherzer said. “I was too easy. I was trying too easy to find the zone, be easy with it. What I needed to do was fire myself up, go after them, be aggressive with them. Once I fired myself up, that’s when I got back into the zone. I got some big strikeouts.”
Manager Jim Leyland has said recently that Scherzer, who tended to overthink in the past but now is becoming more analytical, doesn’t know how good he can become.
A visit from pitching coach Jeff Jones helped Scherzer get back on track, and he settled down to go seven innings after throwing 49 pitches in the first two innings. His pitch count at the end was 117.
“Scherzer scared me early with that pitch count,” Leyland said, “but he settled in, pitched terrific. He got that pitch count up real early, and some of that comes with strikeouts but you can’t have it to that extent. But then he settled down, got some quick outs and was able to save it a little bit and able to get through seven.
“Jonesy talked to him and that seemed to help.”
Scherzer allowed five runs in his only defeat since June 28 and four runs in his two no-decisions. He has given up one or two runs in each of his six wins. In each of his last two starts he’s hit 99 mph with a fastball, his highest readings.
But the big thing that’s going on is that Scherzer is able to self-correct during the game, to minimize the danger innings. His slider and changeup have been better.
It’s a sign of a maturing pitcher.