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DETROIT — Tigers manager Jim Leyland is nothing if not steadfast.
Asked if he gave any thought to starting presumptive Cy Young winner Max Scherzer on short rest Tuesday night, he replied, “No.”
But Leyland did compromise — and, boy, he will never forget it.
With the Tigers in a must-win game and Justin Verlander an option to pitch Game 5 on normal rest Thursday in Oakland, Leyland turned to Scherzer for two wild innings in their 8-6 win at Comerica Park.
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Scherzer entered a tied game in the seventh inning to raucous cheers and left after the eighth to louder ones. In between, he called the experience “surreal.”
The Tigers’ Game 1 starter allowed the go-ahead run in the seventh, then preserved a 5-4 lead in the seventh by escaping a no-outs, bases-loaded jam with no damage. Scherzer and Leyland afterward explained what went into the decision for the late cameo.
“I just came in today, played catch, and I told skip that I’ve got a couple innings in me if you want it, and the way the game unfolded, my number was called,” Scherzer said. “I was warming up the same way, and tried to think of it as a start.”
Before the game, Leyland said a relief appearance by Scherzer was a possibility, though he expressed hesitation.
“We will see how he feels,” he said. “I wouldn’t risk anyone, let alone Max Scherzer.”
Leyland watched Monday night as the Dodgers rode ace Clayton Kershaw on three days rest to a series-clinching win over the Braves. But in eight years as Tigers manager, he has remained consistently on the other side of the debate. Since 2000, pitchers who start a playoff game on short rest are 20-32 with a 4.97 ERA in 82 starts.
Verlander, who pitched a four-hit shutout in the Tigers’ winner-take-all division series win in Oakland last year, will pitch Thursday.
BLOWN OVER: A day later, players dismissed Monday’s bench-clearing staredown as Balfour being Balfour.
The consensus: Oakland closer Grant Balfour is the game’s runaway quirkiest character. The 35-year-old Australian, whose ‘you-looking-at-me?’ routine started the bench-clearing altercation, is superstitious, profane, and, by appearances, an abuser of Pixy Stix. In between pitches, he carries a running dialogue with himself.
A’s outfielder Josh Reddick recalled his first interaction with Balfour when both were playing in Japan.
“I turned around and thought somebody was yelling at me,” he said. “We’ve all seen Balfour when he pitches. He’s yelling at baseballs, blades of grass, the mound. Who knows what’s going on?”
Balfour too laughed about the fracas.
“It’s all good,” he told reporters. “I’m cool with it, bro. Hey, [Martinez] is a great competitor. He’s a great hitter. I like a little fire and obviously he does too. It makes for a bit of fun, right?”
EXTRA INNINGS: With his three-run shot in the fifth inning, Jhonny Peralta tied Miguel Cabrera for the second-most postseason homers in Tigers history (six). Delmon Young has the most with eight. ... Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter was back in the lineup Tuesday despite an aching shoulder. The All-Star right fielder jammed his shoulder while diving for a ball in Game 3 and later met with reporters wearing an oversized ice wrap. “The shoulder is a long way from the heart,” said Hunter, adding the X-Rays were negative. “It’s not broke. I’m good. Give me some Advil, and I’ll be all right.” ... Detroit native and former Tigers starter Frank Tanana threw the ceremonial first pitch to Scherzer.