Many believed Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander would be leading the club in wins at this time, but that hasn't been the case.
Max Scherzer has taken a few headlines away from Verlander and can grab some more Friday when he tries to become the majors' first 12-game winner in the opener of a three-game series against the Tampa Bay Rays.
Scherzer is 11-0 with a 3.05 earned run average in 15 starts, with the Tigers going 12-3 in that stretch. Detroit has won each of Scherzer's last four starts and he allowed two runs in seven innings in last Saturday's 10-3 pounding of the Boston Red Sox. Scherzer struck out six batters and has fanned at least that many in every outing this season.
"I realize it takes so many other teammates to put me in that position," Scherzer said. "This is a credit to the Detroit Tigers for being in this position. I know I pitched well, and I know I gave my team a chance to win, but it doesn't always go that way. To be 11-0, it means that everyone else around me has done their job, and I couldn't be happier for everybody else."
The right-hander joins Pedro Martinez as one of two pitchers in American League history to post six or more strikeouts in 15 or more consecutive games to begin the season. Martinez accomplished the feat in 1999 and set an American League record with 29 straight games with at least six K's in 2000.
Scherzer's 11 straight winning decisions matches Roger Clemens' mark set back in 1997. Clemens is the last hurler to win his first 12 decisions and accomplished the feat back in 1986. Scherzer looks to stay on track on the road and is 8-0 in nine away starts. He defeated the Rays on June 6 with seven innings of one-run ball and is 2-2 with a 2.64 ERA in five career starts against them.
The Tigers could use a boost from Scherzer after they were swept in three games by the LA Angels of Anaheim. The Angels broke out the brooms with Thursday's 3-1 win in 10 innings, as Albert Pujols drove in a run with a double and Josh Hamilton added a sacrifice fly. Ernesto Frieri worked around a hit in the 10th to close out the sweep.
Brayan Pena had two hits and had the lone RBI for the Tigers, whose lead remained at 2 1/2 games ahead of Cleveland in the AL Central after the Indians lost to the Baltimore Orioles. Tigers starter Doug Fister pitched well in the no-decision and hurled seven innings of one-run ball, while Phil Coke was responsible for the go-ahead runs in the 10th.
"I feel like I'm not contributing in a positive way," Coke said. "That's a tough pill for me to swallow because I pride myself on what I do and I haven't got anything to show for it."
The Tigers went 4-6 on their homestand and will now open an 11-game road trip.
Tampa Bay failed in its attempt to sweep the Toronto Blue Jays in three games with Wednesday's 3-0 loss. Jays starter R.A. Dickey threw a two-hit shutout, struck out six and walked one batter to stymie the Rays, who got hits from James Loney and Yunel Escobar.
Rays starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez absorbed the tough-luck loss by surrendering all three runs in eight innings of work.
"I thought Roberto was fantastic," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That probably was his best game all year. The ball was alive, the sinker was very good, the slider was good. It's just unfortunate we got outpitched today."
Tampa Bay had won three in a row before the recent loss and is six games off the lead in the AL East.
Rays rookie Alex Colome will make his third career start Friday and is 1-0 with no earned run average. He made his debut May 30 at Miami and earned the win by holding the Marlins to one unearned run and five hits in 5 2/3 innings.
Colome, a right-hander, then toed the rubber last Saturday in a 7-5 loss at Yankee Stadium and did not figure into the decision, as he yielded three runs -- all unearned -- and five hits with five walks in 4 1/3 innings. He will face Detroit for the first time.
The Rays lost two of three matchups in Detroit earlier this month and are only 4-14 in the past 18 meetings between the clubs.