Scherzer tries to pitch Tigers over Pirates

( - The Detroit Tigers could use a Cy Young performance from the reigning award winner.

With a supposedly formidable pitching staff suddenly in tatters, Max Scherzer takes the mound on Thursday afternoon when the Tigers host the Pittsburgh Pirates in the finale of a four-game, home-and-home series at Comerica Park.

The teams began the series with two games in Pittsburgh, both won by the Pirates, before shifting scenes to Detroit on Wednesday, where the Tigers were 8-4 winners.

The Tigers seemed impenetrable upon acquiring David Price from Tampa Bay at the trade deadline and establishing a rotation with three former Cy Young winners, but past ace Justin Verlander was pulled from Monday's game with right shoulder inflammation. Another non-Cy starter, Anibal Sanchez, is already on the disabled list with a pectoral muscle problem.

Verlander is likely to miss at least one start.

So the emphasis shifts to Scherzer, who's lost just once in his last nine starts and enters the game after tossing eight innings of one-run ball with 11 strikeouts on Saturday in Toronto. The bullpen couldn't hold a lead, though, and Detroit lost, 3-2, in 10 innings.

A win Thursday would make Scherzer the American League's win leader with 14. He's not met the Pirates since 2012, when he won, 4-3, after striking out 15 batters in seven innings.

He faces Pittsburgh veteran Francisco Liriano, who's posted an ugly 10.38 earned run average in two interleague starts this season. It's a stark contrast to last season, when he was 3-1 with a tidy 2.19 ERA against AL foes. That said, the only interleague loss last season was to the Tigers, who scored four times in five innings in a 6-5 win.

In five starts since the All-Star break, he's 2-1 with a 1.69 ERA.

In Liriano's last two starts, however, the Pirates have scored just two runs for him. He was a 2-1 loser against San Diego on Saturday in spite of allowing just three hits and two runs in seven innings.

Three of the past four Pittsburgh starts have failed to last six innings.

On Wednesday, Victor Martinez went 3-for-4 with three RBI to lead the Tigers, who are a half-game behind Kansas City for the AL Central lead. Nick Castellanos tripled and homered to go along with his two RBI and Alex Avila also hit a home run for Detroit, which snapped a four-game skid that included losses in Pittsburgh on Monday and Tuesday.

Buck Farmer made his major-league debut for the Tigers and allowed four runs on six hits and a walk over five innings. Blaine Hardy (2-1) picked up the win after tossing two scoreless innings in relief.

Pirates starter Vance Worley (5-2) took the loss after giving up five runs -- three earned -- on nine hits and a walk with four strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings.

Travis Snider hit a two-run homer while Jordy Mercer and Russell Martin each had an RBI for Pittsburgh.

The Pirates sit 1 1/2 games behind Milwaukee in the NL Central.