Taking over as the top hurler on his staff for the time being, Max Scherzer has raised the bar for all pitchers in the league following his performance on Friday for the Detroit Tigers in the kickoff to a three-game set against the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Scherzer may have plenty of other pitchers in the majors ahead of him when it comes to ERA this season, but he is the only one who has produced an unblemished record through 12 decisions in 2013, a first for any hurler since Roger Clemens went to 12-0 with the Boston Red Sox back in 1986.
Scherzer worked his way through seven innings on Friday, giving up three runs on four hits -- two home runs -- while striking out nine in a 6-3 victory for the visiting Tigers.
"I'm pitching well, but the reason why I'm 12-0 is our offense," Scherzer said. "My record is a reflection of our team. It was the offense that stepped up tonight. All I thought about was winning. That's all that mattered. I don't get caught up in the win-loss record, because it's kind of flukey."
Miguel Cabrera had a huge hand in keeping Scherzer perfect as he hit safely in his 13th consecutive game, finishing with four hits overall, two of which were home runs. Now second in the AL in home runs with 24, Cabrera leads the league in RBI (81) and batting average (.377) once again.
Prince Fielder responded with two hits, two RBI and two runs scored, connecting on his 13th home run of the campaign, to help keep Detroit on top of the AL Central by two games over Cleveland heading into the weekend.
Saddled with the loss for the Rays, a team which is now seven games off the pace in the AL East, was Alex Colome who gave up four runs on four hits and a pair of walks through six innings of action.
Six different Tampa Bay batters struck out at least twice in the setback, the second in as many games for the squad, but still Wil Myers was a bright spot for the hosts as he registered two of the unit's five hits, belting his third home run of the campaign, and scoring twice. Ben Zobrist also went deep with his fifth home run of 2013, but for the time being the spotlight is centered on Myers, the first Ray to have three home runs and nine RBI through his first 11 career games.
"He's a real talent, you can see that," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said of Myers. "It looks like he has a lot of potential, obviously. He's a really good-looking young player."
While Scherzer continues to be one of the most dominant pitchers in the majors this season, Justin Verlander seeks his first win in more than three weeks on Saturday night as he takes the mound for the Tigers.
Verlander, a five-time all-star who won the American League Cy Young Award and MVP just two seasons ago, had won four straight outings between May 22 and June 7, but since then has lost his only decision in three contests.
Last weekend the Old Dominion product lasted just five innings for the second game in a row, permitting four runs on seven hits and three walks, while striking out four, in what turned into a 7-5 victory versus Boston at home.
For his career, Verlander is 6-3 with a 3.86 ERA in 12 starts versus the Rays.
While Verlander tries to get back on track for the Tigers, Tampa Bay has second-year man Chris Archer ready to take his place under the spotlight. A sixth-round draft pick by Cleveland in 2006, Archer is getting his first-ever look at Detroit.
The North Carolina native has only been up with the big club since the start of June, putting up a record of 2-3 during that time. Last weekend Archer went up against the New York Yankees on the road and pitched rather well as he allowed just a single run on six hits and a walk, striking out four through six innings in a 3-1 victory.
Detroit, which came into this season having posted an 11-3 mark versus the Rays the last two years, is now ahead by a count of 3-1 in 2013 as well.