DETROIT — Max Scherzer is feeling the pressure these days.
The Detroit right-hander is unbeaten this year, but with every turn through the rotation, it seems at least one of his teammates is reaching a new level.
“We feed off each other, but we’ve also pushed the bar so dang high,” Scherzer said. “Everybody wants to try to match that.”
Scherzer struck out nine in seven innings, and Victor Martinez homered and drove in three runs to lift the Tigers to a 5-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday. Miguel Cabrera had three hits for Detroit, along with his major league-leading 66th RBI.
Scherzer (8-0) allowed a run and four hits, walking two. He is the first Detroit pitcher to start the season 8-0 since Jeremy Bonderman in 2007.
Joaquin Benoit allowed a run in the eighth, and Jose Valverde pitched a perfect ninth for his seventh save in nine chances.
Martinez has struggled a bit with the bat since returning from a knee injury that caused him to miss all of 2012, but there was no doubt about his drive to right in the fourth, a two-run shot that cleared the wall with plenty of room to spare.
It was his fourth homer of the season. He’s hitting only .231 and hasn’t always been rewarded when he’s hit the ball hard.
“It’s pretty tough not to get frustrated. Every time you go out there, you put good swings — right at somebody,” Martinez said. “I’m controlling the things that I can control.”
Martinez’s homer gave Detroit a 2-0 lead, and Cabrera drove in a run the following inning with a single.
Tampa Bay’s Roberto Hernandez (3-6) allowed four runs in 5 1-3 innings.
The first-place Tigers lead Cleveland by 2½ games in the AL Central. The Indians visit Detroit for a three-game series starting today.
Justin Verlander will start the opener of that series, and his 3.70 ERA actually ranks fourth in Detroit’s rotation. Anibal Sanchez (2.65), Scherzer (3.24), and Doug Fister (3.27) are all ahead of him.
“That might be the best rotation in the American League,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “Scherzer is a lot like Sanchez, where he can add and subtract with all of his pitches. He’s got a lot more confidence in the changeup, and his other pitches have gotten much better over the last couple years.”
Opponents are hitting .185 off Scherzer. He fanned Evan Longoria three times and kept the Rays off the scoreboard until an RBI single by James Loney in the sixth inning.
“I’m showing consistency with four pitches and I feel like that’s really what’s allowing me to be effective and pitch deep into games and do all the little things well,” Scherzer said. “I realize the league’s probably going to make adjustments to me and I’ve got to be ready to still pitch my best when maybe I don’t have my best stuff.”
Don Kelly led off the Detroit fifth with a single, advanced to second on a groundout and eventually scored on Cabrera’s bloop single to right-center. Cabrera finished with three hits, and Prince Fielder had two to extend his hitting streak to 11 games.
Hernandez pitched 8 2/3 innings without an earned run in a win at Miami in his previous start, but he ran into trouble in the middle innings against Detroit. After Tampa Bay scored in the sixth, Hernandez allowed a leadoff double by Jhonny Peralta in the bottom half and a one-out single by Omar Infante. Pinch-hitter Avisail Garcia hit a sacrifice fly off reliever Jake McGee to make it 4-1.
Cabrera singled and stole second in the seventh and scored on a single by Martinez. Tampa Bay got a run back in the eighth on an RBI infield single by Loney.
Hernandez allowed 10 hits and a walk. He struck out six.
The Rays lost two of three to the Tigers — Tampa Bay has only one series win at Comerica Park in the last nine seasons.
MLB asking for FedEx, phone records in lawsuit
NEW YORK — Major League Baseball lawyers issued subpoenas to Federal Express, AT&T Mobility, and T-Mobile USA in an attempt to gain records for its investigation of players suspected of using performance-enhancing drugs.
The subpoenas were issued May 23, according to a civil case file in Florida’s Circuit Court for Miami-Dade County, where MLB sued Biogenesis of America, anti-aging clinic head Anthony Bosch, and five others in March.
MLB asked Federal Express to turn over shipment records for Biogenesis, Bosch, the other defendants, and a long list of individuals who appeared to be affiliated with Bosch.
MLB asked the phone companies for call records, texts, and subscriber info for the phones of Juan Carlos Nunez, an associate of outfielder Melky Cabrera who was banned from big league clubhouses last year, and Porter Fischer, who was affiliated with the now-closed clinic.
In addition, a subpoena was issued for Biogenesis and related entities in March, seeking records involving major leaguers and 70 banned substances. No players were mentioned by name.
MLB hopes Bosch will provide information implicating players in the use of banned performance-enhancing drugs, and Bosch agreed this week to cooperate. Because any discipline could be challenged by the players’ association in grievances before an arbitrator, MLB likely would want records to corroborate any testimony.
There was no indication in the files whether the companies planned to challenge the subpoenas.
“FedEx complies with all valid subpoenas, and we are unable to comment further,” company spokesman Scott Fiedler said.
Said AT&T spokesman Marty Richter: “We respond to all lawfully issued subpoenas.”
T-Mobile spokeswoman Anne Marshall said the company is looking into the request and has no comment.