DETROIT — Max Scherzer struck out 14 batters in eight shutout innings, leading the Detroit Tigers to a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Thursday.
Scherzer (14-4) took another step toward a second straight American League Cy Young Award, holding Pittsburgh to three hits and two walks. Since June 22, Scherzer is 6-1 in 10 starts with a 1.78 ERA and 85 strikeouts as opposed to only 52 hits.
Scherzer’s performance and a homer from J.D. Martinez gave the Tigers a much-needed sweep of the short two-game series and a split of the four games in the home-and-home series that started Monday in Pittsburgh.
Francisco Liriano (3-9) took a tough loss for Pittsburgh, allowing two runs on three hits and four walks in six innings. He struck out nine, but wasn’t able to match Scherzer’s brilliance.
The game was a classic pitcher’s duel early, with Scherzer striking out 11 batters in the first five innings while Liriano hadn’t allowed a hit through four. Martinez, though, changed things with a long homer off Liriano to start the fifth.
Detroit posed a much bigger threat to Liriano in the next inning, loading the bases with one out. Torii Hunter struck out, but Liriano walked Martinez with his 99th pitch of the game to make it 2-0.
That was enough for Scherzer, who cruised through eighth innings without much stress. His last pitch of the day, his season-high 121th, resulted in Ian Kinsler ranging deep into the hole to grab Gregory Polanco’s grounder, spin and throw him out at first. That drew a fist pump from Scherzer, who then left the field to a standing ovation from the sold-out crowd of 41,984.
The Tigers broke the game open in the eighth, scoring one run on a throwing error by Michael Martinez before Nick Castellanos added a two-run single. That became important when Gaby Sanchez hit a 2-run homer off Phil Coke in the ninth.
Detroit: The Tigers had to make another roster move Thursday, thanks to the injuries sustained by Justin Verlander, Anibal Sanchez and Joakim Soria. Buck Farmer, who started Wednesday’s game, was sent to Triple-A Toledo, while RHP Melvin Mercedes was recalled from the Mud Hens.
Pittsburgh: Neil Walker has missed 11 of the last 12 games with back tightness, but Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said he isn’t heading for the DL. Walker was on the on-deck circle as a pinch hitter when Thursday’s game ended. Clint Barmes (groin) was scheduled to start a rehab assignment with Double-A Altoona Thursday.
Detroit: The Tigers welcome back recently traded Austin Jackson on Friday in the first of a three-game series with the Mariners. Jackson, who left in the deadline deal for David Price, will face Rick Porcello (13-7, 3.11), while James Paxton (2-0, 2.38) starts for Seattle.
Pittsburgh: The Pirates head for the nation’s capital for a three-game weekend series against the Nationals. Charlie Morton (5-11, 3.62) starts for Pittsburgh in Friday’s opener, while the Nationals will have Tanner Roark (11-7, 2.86) on the mound.