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BOSTON — Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer arrived in the interview room at Fenway Park late Saturday afternoon wearing a “41-26” sticker on his sweatshirt.
“That’s the Mizzou football score against Georgia,” he said.
The Missouri alum’s smile then grew wider, the trash-talk potential of the Tigers’ first road win against a top-10 team in 32 years dawning on him.
“I’m definitely going to be talking loud today,” he said.
From his heart-thumping, season-saving relief appearance last Tuesday to his alma mater’s stunning upset, the week has been one unending high for the presumptive Cy Young Award winner. His next act comes today in Game 2 of the AL championship series — this time back as a starter.
“I’m fully ready to go,” Scherzer said. “The arm feels good. ... I’m going back into my routine.”
The right-hander is 2-4 with a 7.02 ERA during his career against the Red Sox. But down to his performance against Boston — a 2.57 ERA in two starts — Scherzer is on a storybook ride this season. He went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA during the regular season, then picked up two wins in the division series — including one in his two innings of relief in Game 4.
“Whether it’s the guy shooting 3-pointers or the the field goal kicker, in sports, guys get on a roll from time to time,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “And he’s on a roll. He comes in relief the other day and ends up getting the win. After winning 22 games, he comes in and gets another one of the bullpen. Sometimes, guys just get on a roll. That’s the type of year he had.”
OLD FRIEND: A familiar face stood in wait in the home dugout Saturday night.
Former Mud Hens and Tigers outfielder Quintin Berry is on the Red Sox’s 25-man postseason roster, though you might not see evidence of it without blowing past bedtime. A late-innings pinch-runner, Berry is in the majors for one reason: Speed.
Berry has only nine at-bats in 13 games with Boston, but that is beside the point. He picks up where other hitters leave off and has yet to be caught stealing in 24 big-league attempts — including 21 for the Tigers last season.
Asked if Leyland should be nervous, Berry smiled and replied, “I hope so.”
The 28-year-old former journeyman minor leaguer enjoyed a meteoric rise to the majors with Detroit last season before midnight struck this spring. Berry never overcame the hurt of not making the Tigers’ roster. He batted .168 in 49 games with the Mud Hens and was designated for assignment in June.
Berry eventually caught on with the Pawtucket Red Sox and was called up to Boston in September.
KEEPING ON: A reporter who asked Leyland about his lineup for Game 2 may as well have inquired about the Tigers’ Opening Day starter next season.
“At my age, I go one day at a time,” he said.
In that case, can you address your future with the Tigers, skip? Bad question.
With the recent retirement of Washington’s Davey Johnson, 70, leaving the 68-year-old Leyland as the last of his contemporaries calling the shots, the Tigers’ manager was again asked how long he planned to remain on the bench. His response was the same as usual.
“I’m still ticking,” he said, smiling. “We have a policy in Detroit, because I’ve been on a one‑year contract for several years now, we don’t discuss my situation until probably the day or two after the final game. Hopefully, that's not for a while yet.”
EXTRA INNINGS: The Tigers made one change to their ALCS roster, activating left-handed reliever Phil Coke in place of pitcher Luke Putkonen. Coke, who was 0-5 with a 5.40 ERA during the regular season, spent the past week testing a tender elbow with the organization’s Instructional League team in Florida. ... Leyland on the importance of advance scouting in the postseason: “They know that [Miguel] Cabrera is a pretty good hitter, and we know that Big Papi is a pretty good hitter. There’s really no secrets this time of year.”