DETROIT — Max Scherzer gave Detroit’s beleaguered bullpen a bit of a breather.
Scherzer struck out nine in seven innings — fanning Mike Trout three times in the process — and the Detroit Tigers finally managed to beat the Los Angeles Angels, 5-2 today.
Detroit had dropped 10 straight to the Angels, including an 11-6 loss the previous night in which Los Angeles battered the Tigers with 10 extra-base hits.
“I realized it was important to get deep into a game, and that’s why even after the sixth inning I said, ‘Let me go back out there,’” Scherzer said. “I know our bullpen has been taxed as of late.”
Nick Castellanos and Victor Martinez homered for the Tigers, who beat the Angels for the first time since Aug. 26, 2012.
Albert Pujols hit his 498th homer, connecting for a solo shot in the ninth for Los Angeles.
Scherzer (1-1) allowed a run and three hits with two walks. The AL Cy Young Award winner struck Pujols out twice and shut down Trout, rebounding quickly after giving up a homer to J.B. Shuck to lead off the game.
“Some days you’ve just got to tip your cap. (Scherzer) made a few good pitches,” Trout said. “He’s got good life on his fastball. The ball, in the middle, kind of rises up from that kind of sidearm motion.”
Joba Chamberlain struck out two in the eighth for the Tigers, and Joe Nathan got Trout looking to start the ninth. It was Trout’s first career four-strikeout game.
“He’s a great hitter, and I respect everything that he does,” Scherzer said. “You’ve got to be really aggressive right back at him.”
C.J. Wilson (2-2) gave up three earned runs in five innings.
Shuck led off the game with a homer, but that was all the scoring for the Angels until Pujols homered for the second straight day, hitting his sixth shot of the season.
In a sign of things to come, Scherzer struck out Trout, Pujols and Raul Ibanez immediately after allowing the homer to Shuck. Wilson made it through a shaky first inning, but Castellanos hit a two-run homer in the second to put the Tigers ahead to stay.
Detroit added an unearned run in the third. Miguel Cabrera reached on an error by right fielder Brennan Boesch and went to second on a wild pitch. Cabrera was then called out at third when Trout — his foil from the last two American League MVP races — made a nice throw from center. The Tigers challenged the call, however, and Cabrera was ruled safe.
Cabrera scored on a sacrifice fly by Austin Jackson to make it 3-1.
The Tigers thought they’d escaped a jam in the fourth when Ian Stewart was called out trying to steal second, but the Angels challenged and the call was overturned. With runners on second and third, Scherzer struck out Erick Aybar for the third out.
Martinez added a solo homer in the fifth, and Ian Kinsler’s sacrifice fly in the eighth made it 5-1.
Scherzer, meanwhile, looked every bit his Cy Young self. Trout, Pujols and Ibanez — the second, third and fourth hitters in the Los Angeles lineup — went 0 for 8 with seven strikeouts and a walk against the Detroit starter.
“I can’t say enough about how important that start was — not only for us as a team, but just for the bullpen,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “We had a bunch of guys out there who really could use a day off.”
It’s no surprise when Scherzer pitches well, but Chamberlain’s performance may have been even more encouraging. He retired the side on eight pitches — all strikes — in the eighth.
“If he keeps throwing all strikes, he’ll pitch a lot,” Ausmus said.