NEW YORK — During a season of nearly unprecedented pitching success, Max Scherzer relished a rare opportunity to talk about his bat.
“Definitely my own,” he said. “P-100, says Max Scherzer on it.”
Scherzer outpitched Matt Harvey in their All-Star rematch, striking out 11 and hitting a stunning RBI double that sent the Detroit Tigers to a 3-0 victory over the New York Mets today.
Scherzer (19-1) joined Rube Marquard in 1912 and Roger Clemens in 2001 as the only major league pitchers to win 19 of their first 20 decisions in a season.
But it was his big hit off a hard-throwing ace that had teammates talking — and Scherzer crowing.
“I’ve got a replay and I’m sending a text to everybody right now. It was definitely 96 (mph) down and away, and I laced it for a double,” Scherzer said. “I’m never going to shut up. I’m just going to keep talking trash the whole time.”
Andy Dirks had three hits off Harvey, who gave up a career-high 13 over 6 2-3 innings against Detroit’s powerful lineup. He pitched out of trouble to keep the Mets in the game, but they lost for the fifth time in his last six starts.
Missing injured slugger David Wright, the Mets have managed only two runs during a three-game skid. They were outhit 15-3 by the AL Central leaders, who got aggressive against Harvey (9-5) despite late-afternoon shadows.
Harvey and Scherzer squared off on the same Citi Field mound 5½ weeks ago in the All-Star game.
Scherzer started and pitched one inning for the American League, which tossed a three-hitter in a 3-0 victory — same as the Tigers today. Harvey got the ball for the NL, escaped an early jam and struck out three over two shutout innings to delight the home crowd.
The Mets said this matchup marked the third time All-Star starters had faced each other on another occasion during the same season, according to research by the Elias Sports Bureau. The first two came in the World Series: Mets ace Dwight Gooden opposed Clemens and the Boston Red Sox in 1986, and Red Ruffing of the New York Yankees faced Cincinnati’s Paul Derringer in 1939.
“It’s just something fun to be a part of,” Scherzer said. “I always enjoy facing the best.”
Scherzer, given the best offensive support in the AL at about 7½ runs per nine innings, allowed three hits and four walks in six innings. He struck out seven of eight hitters during one stretch.
“I pitched well today but I didn’t pitch efficiently,” Scherzer said. “I wasn’t quite as sharp as usual, but I thought I made big pitches when I needed to and that was the most important thing.”
New York loaded the bases with one out in the sixth, but a good play by Dirks on Ike Davis’ double off the base of the right-field wall held Daniel Murphy at third.
Scherzer struck out rookie Juan Lagares with a high fastball at 96 mph. John Buck popped up the next pitch, and a fired-up Scherzer pounded his glove in excitement, knowing his day was done after 118 pitches.
Jose Alvarez set down all four batters he faced, and Joaquin Benoit worked a perfect ninth for his 17th save.
Don Kelly added a sacrifice fly in the ninth.
Pitching before a crowd of 35,636 on a beautiful, 78-degree day, Harvey didn’t have it early. He gave up hits to six of his first 10 batters, and the Tigers scored twice in the second inning.
“Just a poor performance,” Harvey said. “I’m getting pretty tired, but so is everybody and you have to work through it.”
Dirks led off with a double and went to third on Brayan Pena’s single. One out later, Scherzer showed bunt on one pitch and then swung at the next, lashing an RBI double over shortstop in his first plate appearance of the season.
Turns out, Scherzer said, he was supposed to be bunting. He didn’t realize the sign was still on.
A giddy Scherzer clapped his hands and cracked a smile at second base as the Detroit bench broke up in amusement.
“He turned on it. We were shocked. We went crazy,” said teammate Torii Hunter, who called Scherzer the “modern-day Babe Ruth” and acknowledged the rest of the Tigers will never hear the end of it.
It was Scherzer’s first hit and RBI in nine at-bats since joining the Tigers in 2010, but he did bat a respectable .226 with two doubles and three RBIs for the Diamondbacks in 2009.
“In Arizona we took it very seriously, pitchers hitting in the National League,” he said.
That’s when fellow ace Justin Verlander came by in the clubhouse. He asked if Scherzer was still talking about hitting, and scoffed.
“See, he’s so jealous. So jealous,” Scherzer said. “He can’t take it.”
On Friday, Scherzer said he was looking forward to the challenge of pitching against Harvey in their much-anticipated rematch. But the Tigers’ right-hander lamented the fact that a rare chance to hit would come against such a dominant opponent.
“I feel like the cards are stacked against me,” Scherzer said.
Not at all.
Austin Jackson drove in another run with an infield single, but Harvey prevented further damage and settled down during the middle innings. He kept the Mets in it with the help of left fielder Eric Young Jr., who threw out a hobbled Omar Infante at the plate in the seventh.
“What we saw today is a guy who’s working as hard as he can,” Mets manager Terry Collins said. “But you’re seeing the effects of his first full season up here. It’s a grind and he’s doing the best he can.”
NOTES: Tigers manager Jim Leyland said Victor Martinez, normally the DH, will probably catch again Sunday. Martinez, who missed last season following knee surgery, started behind the plate Friday night for the first time since Aug. 4, 2011. “He’s standing, he’s breathing, 98.6 temperature, I guess he’s OK,” Leyland said. ... Martinez and Hunter were rested. SS Jose Iglesias was out of the lineup with a sore left elbow after he was hit by a pitch in the ninth inning Friday. X-rays were negative, but Leyland said Iglesias couldn’t bend his swollen arm and wouldn’t be available off the bench. Leyland hoped Iglesias could play Sunday. ... New York wore orange Los Mets jerseys on Fiesta Latina Day.