It has been quite a season for Max Scherzer, who has written himself into the Detroit Tigers' record books.
But the undefeated Scherzer may have to try and extend his outstanding start to the season without the help of one the best hitters in baseball as the Tigers resume a four-game series against the Toronto Blue Jays.
No Detroit pitcher had ever begun a season 12-0 before Scherzer recorded his fifth straight winning start on Friday. After holding the Tampa Bay Rays to three runs over seven innings, he became the first pitcher in baseball to win his first 12 decisions in a season since Roger Clemens began the 1986 campaign 14-0.
The right-hander was quick to credit his offense afterward as the key of his success.
"I'm pitching well, but the reason I'm 12-0 is because of my offense," said a humble Scherzer, who has a 3.10 earned run average on the season.
"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."
Scherzer also struck out nine to extend another streak. He has fanned at least six batters in all 16 of his starts this season, the second-longest streak in AL history behind Pedro Martinez's 29-game run to begin the 2000 campaign.
If the Blue Jays are to hand Scherzer his first defeat tonight, they'll need to overcome a few trends. The 28-year-old is 4-0 in seven road starts this season with an excellent 2.08 ERA and has never lost to Toronto, going 3-0 with a 1.59 ERA in five starts.
But the Tigers may have to take the field tonight without Miguel Cabrera, who won the AL MVP and Triple Crown a season ago and is tops in the league again this season with a .368 average and 85 RBI. His 26 home runs are second in the AL.
Cabrera hit a three-run homer in Tuesday's 7-6 loss, but had to exit the contest in the ninth inning due to a sore back. The slugger said he felt stiff before the game and aggravated the ailment diving for a ball in the first inning.
"Hopefully it's not a big deal and I can come (Wednesday), get treatment and get ready to play," Cabrera said.
Manager Jim Leyland, though, will be a bit more cautious with his star.
"He said no rest (Wednesday), he'll be ready," Leyland said, "but I'm going to play that one by ear."
Despite a six-run second inning, Detroit did not lock up the victory until Torii Hunter's fourth hit of the game drove in the winning run in the eighth frame. That's because starter Doug Fister allowed six runs in the first two innings before settling down to keep Toronto off the board over his next four frames of work.
That helped Detroit snap a three-game slide and win for just the second time in eight games.
Toronto, meanwhile, had a seven-game home winning streak halted with its sixth loss in nine games.
Starter Chien-Ming Wang was chased early after giving up six runs on eight hits in 1 2/3 innings of work, The right-hander only lasted 1 2/3 innings in his last start after going down 7-0 to the Red Sox and was designated for assignment following last night's contest.
Colby Rasmus hit a two-run homer for the Blue Jays in the bottom of the second inning and had four RBI for the game.
Josh Johnson will make his 10th start of the season for the Blue Jays.
In his first start since picking up his initial victory of the season, the right-hander lasted just 3 1/3 innings at Boston on Friday. Johnson yielded five runs on eight hits and two walks, but did not factor into a 7-5 setback.
That left the 29-year-old 1-2 with a 5.21 earned run average this season and that includes a rough introduction to the Tigers.
Facing the franchise for the first time in his career, Johnson gave up six runs on seven hits and two walks while only recording four outs.
The Tigers have won seven of their past nine versus the Blue Jays, taking two of three at home from April 9-11.