OAKLAND, Calif. – Max Scherzer overpowered Oakland with his dominant fastball, then baffled the Athletics with his off-speed stuff.
Scherzer struck out 11 over seven dominant innings, Miguel Cabrera helped stake Detroit to an early lead before leaving in the eighth, and the Tigers held on to beat the A’s 3-2 on Friday night in the opener of their A.L. division series rematch.
The only guy who could get anything going against Scherzer was Yoenis Cespedes – and that wasn’t enough the way the likely Cy Young Award winner was pitching.
“Today we noticed that my fastball seemed pretty good and my changeup seemed pretty good. That’s why I thought I was able to get into a groove and pitch deep into the game because of those two pitches,” Scherzer said. “I thought I did a good job of attacking the zone and throwing first-pitch strikes, which I pride myself in.”
Cabrera, hindered by a groin strain late in a season of injuries for last year’s Triple Crown winner, didn’t have to overextend himself on defense thanks to Scherzer’s 118-pitch gem. But he did look uncomfortable running out a grounder in the eighth.
“I think he tried to kick it in a little bit and it looked like it bothered him,” manager Jim Leyland said. “I wasn’t very comfortable taking him out of a one-run game, but there was a little bit more to it.”
Cabrera and Alex Avila each hit first-inning RBI singles against 40-year-old All-Star Bartolo Colon, whose winless stretch against the Tigers extended to 10 1/2 years.
Scherzer retired 16 of his first 18 batters and was nearly untouchable before Cespedes’ two-run drive in the seventh, his first career playoff home run. The strikeouts were his most in seven postseason starts.
Cespedes struck out in the ninth against closer Joaquin Benoit, who retired the final four A’s for the save.
Leyland chose Scherzer over Justin Verlander, who goes in Game 2 tonight against 23-year-old rookie Sonny Gray in just his 11th career start