Max Scherzer threw a strike on his first pitch Thursday night at the Oakland Coliseum. Coco Crisp swung and missed. For the next four innings during Game 4 of the American League Division Series, Scherzer kept throwing strikes.♦ Endurance Scherzer's only issue in Game 4 (mlb.com)
He pitched to 13 batters in this stretch and welcomed nine to the batter's box with a first-pitch strike. Working in the low-to-mid 90s, Scherzer struck out four of the first seven batters he faced.
He moved his fastball in and out and up and down the zone. He used his slider to freeze them and his change-up -- masterful all evening -- to fool them. For anyone wondering how effective Scherzer would be after injuring his shoulder late in the season, he answered the question in the first inning.
That's the Max Scherzer that led the American League in strikeouts for most of the summer and loomed as a second Tigers ace for teams to face in October.♦ By sixth inning, Tigers starter Max Scherzer's velocity had plummeted (Detroit News)
He wasn't that way for as long as he would've liked, but that was an endurance question, not an arm question. His stuff, two weeks after shoulder soreness put his season in doubt, was as close to midseason form as he has been since missing his start down the stretch.
He has no idea whether he'll get to use it again this season. But if the Tigers can overcome their 4-3, walk-off loss to the A's in Game 4 of the American League Division Series and advance, Scherzer looks ready to team up with Justin Verlander to make Detroit a formidable threat in the AL Championship Series.
"I was able to pitch pretty well, I thought," Scherzer said. "I did a good job working my fastball to offspeed. I thought the slider, change and curveball were all really good and effective. So from where my stuff is at, it's really as good as ever."
Five innings — with a two-out threat in the bottom of fifth as the only blemish.
Yet Tigers starter Max Scherzer was out of Wednesday night's game two batters into the sixth inning. What happened?
"Well, if you watched," said manager Jim Leyland, "the velocity started to drop pretty good. To 90 to 91.
"He hasn't really pitched that much lately. It looked like he was pretty much spent (after 91 pitches). I didn't want him to make a mistake and have (Yoenis) Cespedes hurt us.