Scherzer's effort furthers dominance of Tigers' starters
Pitchers establish franchise mark by holding foes scoreless for 23 straight frames
BOSTON -- Though the tone of the game would eventually change, the dominance displayed by the Tigers' pitching staff through the early stages of the American League Championship Series reached historic proportions on Sunday night.
Detroit set a franchise record by going 23 consecutive postseason innings without allowing a run. The Tigers also broke a Major League record by striking out 32 batters over back-to-back postseason games, and Boston became the first franchise in playoff history to go hitless through five innings in consecutive contests.
Those numbers would have a lot more significance had Detroit hung on to win Game 2, but Boston's late comeback changed how this story will be remembered. Still, there's no denying the impressive run that Detroit's pitching staff was able to go on, even if the club ended up on the wrong end of a 6-5 score.
"You're aware that it's going on, but I was just focused on pitching," said right-hander Max Scherzer, who carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning and recorded 13 strikeouts. "When you're in the postseason, you can't get caught up in personal achievements.
"I'm out there trying to go as long as I can and minimize the damage, trying to prevent as many runs coming across. Regular season, yeah, you might get caught up in it, try to pitch for it. But postseason, nah, there's no chance."
Detroit's scoreless streak began in Game 5 of the AL Division Series, vs. Oakland, and continued until the sixth inning of Sunday's Game 2, when Scherzer surrendered an RBI double to Dustin Pedroia.
The previous franchise record, set in 2006 and matched in 2011, was 20. The all-time record for the postseason is 33, set by the Orioles in their 1966 World Series sweep of the Dodgers.
Boston's offense finally came to life, but before that sixth inning the club was unable to get anything going against Detroit's impressive staff. Through the first 14 innings, Boston went just 1-for-44 with an astonishing 26 strikeouts and appeared well on its way to setting a record for the fewest hits through two games of any LCS in history.
The Twins hold that title, with just seven hits in the 1969 ALCS, and the Red Sox were dangerously close to overtaking them. The only thing that saved them was a grand slam by David Ortiz in the eighth inning and a pair of singles in the ninth that brought the hit total to eight.
It was a remarkably slow start to the ALCS, especially considering the fact that the Red Sox finished the regular season with more runs than any other team in the Majors. But pitching often takes over; Detroit boasted the top-ranked rotation this season and that success clearly carried over into the playoffs.
"Tonight is almost a tale of two different games inside one," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Their pitching basically dominated us. But [Shane Victorino] gets the two-out base hit, Pedroia gets the ball off the wall, and there was a little bit of life injected into us.
"We keep coming -- that's been a characteristic the entire season, [and] it was on display here tonight. And once again, our guys don't quit until that last final out is made."
Despite the woes of their bullpen, the Tigers still have some impressive numbers thanks to the performances of their starters. Right-hander Anibal Sanchez got things started in Game 1 with 12 strikeouts over six scoreless innings, and on Sunday night, Scherzer continued the trend, allowing just one run on two hits while striking out 13 over seven innings.
The 13 strikeouts were the second most by any Tigers pitcher in postseason history. Right-hander Joe Coleman has the record, having struck out 14 in Game 3 of the 1972 ALCS, vs. Oakland. Hall of Famer Bob Gibson holds the single-game record for postseason strikeouts, with 17 in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series.
Scherzer now has three 10-plus-strikeout games in his postseason career, which ties him with Jim Palmer, Sandy Koufax and Josh Beckett for seventh on the all-time list. Cliff Lee, Randy Johnson, Justin Verlander and Gibson share the record, with five games of 10-plus strikeouts.
"I felt like I was in control of my pitches," said Scherzer, who took a no-decision. "I was locating where I wanted to. I minimized my mistakes. I made a mistake to [Jarrod] Saltalamacchia and almost got burned by it, but thankfully, the dimensions of the park helped me out.
"Other than that, I thought I had four pitches [working] today. and I was generating swing-and-misses. When I do that, that's when I usually have success, and tonight was evidence of that."
Also of note:
• Tigers pitchers have struck out 11 or more batters in three straight postseason games, dating back to Game 5 of the ALDS against Oakland. That ties them with the 2010 Giants for the second most all-time in the postseason. Detroit already holds the overall record, with five straight 11-strikeout games, stretching from Game 3 of the 2012 World Series to Game 3 of the 2013 ALDS.
• The Tigers are now the first team in postseason history to post three straight games in which their pitcher opened with at least five no-hit innings. Verlander had 6 2/3 no-hit innings in Game 5 of the ALDS vs. Oakland, Sanchez had six vs. Boston in Game 1 and Scherzer had 5 2/3 innings in Game 2.
• With the 15 strikeouts in Game 5, Detroit has struck out 10 or more batters in 16 of its past 19 postseason games. Including the regular season, the Tigers have struck out 10 or more in 19 of their past 26.