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DETROIT — Even though Max Scherzer went into Saturday night’s start with a stellar record, he was struggling.
In his previous three outings Scherzer had given up 19 runs for a 12.51 ERA, but managed to go 1-1 in the process.
Last season, a similar slump ended with Scherzer being sent to Triple-A Toledo. This time, the punchless Seattle Mariners might have helped him fix his problems.
Scherzer didn’t allow a hit until the fifth inning of Detroit’s 8-1 win, and finished by giving up one run on four hits and two walks in seven innings. He is now tied for the AL lead in wins.
“I really just executed better pitches,” Scherzer said. “I was able to keep my slider down in the zone, my fastball down in the zone, and a couple balls they hit hard found gloves.”
Scherzer also got plenty of help from the offense. Austin Jackson tripled twice, Victor Martinez had three hits and two RBIs, and Jhonny Peralta homered for the Tigers.
“I thought we played well,” manager Jim Leyland said. “Scherzer was much, much better obviously, and we got some big hits against a good young pitcher.”
Detroit moved within one percentage point of first-place Cleveland in the AL Central after being as many as eight games behind in early May.
“It feels good, but we’ve got 100 games left,” Scherzer said. “A lot of things can still happen, but you have to love the talent on this team. We’re in a real good position, and we are definitely coming on strong.”
Mariners rookie Michael Pineda (6-4) had the worst start of his brief career, giving up a career-high six runs — five earned — on eight hits and a walk in 5 1-3 innings.
“When you are looking at a starting pitcher, what you really need to see is how they will react when they don’t have their best stuff,” manager Eric Wedge said. “Michael really battled back tonight, and he was better after the first couple innings. They just got him again in the end.”
The Mariners got their first hit on Mike Carp’s one-out single in the fifth, but ran themselves out of the inning on a pair of odd plays. Chone Figgins lined a ball off second baseman Ramon Santiago’s glove and into right, but Carp had retreated on the play and was forced out at second 4-9-6.
Greg Halman then hit a tapper toward shortstop and Peralta didn’t bother throwing to first. Figgins, though, went too far around second and was erased in an inning-ending 6-4-1-6 rundown.
“Those plays were huge — (Brennan) Boesch being able to throw the guy out at second and then Jhonny catching Figgins off second,” Scherzer said.
Meanwhile, the Tigers were teeing off on Pineda. They took a 2-0 lead in the first on Martinez’s RBI single and a throwing error by catcher Miguel Olivo, then added another run in the second when Jackson’s triple scored Santiago.
The Mariners got their only run in the sixth when slumping Ichiro Suzuki tripled and scored on a sacrifice fly, but Peralta’s two-run homer keyed a three-run sixth.
Martinez had an RBI double in the seventh and Jackson scored in the eighth after his second triple of the game.
NOTES: Jackson and Tigers C Alex Avila have both had two-triple games in the last three days. ... Suzuki had gotten a rare day off Friday and was 1 for 18 on Seattle’s current road trip before tripling and singling in his final two at-bats. ... The Tigers have gotten an extra-base hit in all 64 games this season, the longest streak since Tampa Bay started the 2007 season with 77 straight. It is Detroit’s longest streak to begin a year since at least 1919.