Scherzer pitches Tigers past A's in Game 1

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Oakland, CA ( - Max Scherzer went the first three months of the regular season without recording a loss.

Now all he needs to do is go another month without one.

Baseball's only 20-game winner passed his first test.

Scherzer had 11 strikeouts over seven innings of two-run ball Friday and the Detroit Tigers beat the Oakland Athletics 3-2 in Game 1 of a rematch of last year's American League Division Series.

Miguel Cabrera's RBI single highlighted Detroit's three-run first, which was more than enough cushion for the 21-game winner Scherzer (1-0), who surrendered just three hits.

Scherzer built a 13-0 record before finally taking his first loss July 13 against the Texas Rangers.

"I thought Scherzer was pretty well locked in all night, he was awful determined," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. "I think he was thrilled to get Game 1, I think it meant a lot to him."

He struck out 240 batters and posted a 2.90 ERA during the regular season to get the ball for Game 1 in place of inconsistent ace Justin Verlander, who will start Game 2 Saturday. Verlander beat the A's in Games 1 and 5 of last year's ALDS.

Victor Martinez tallied two hits and a run scored, while Alex Avila added a pair of hits and an RBI for the defending AL-champion Tigers.

Bartolo Colon (0-1), whose 18 regular season wins were second-best in the AL, yielded three runs on 10 hits over six innings. Colon never got a chance to pitch in last year's ALDS. He served a 50-game ban for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

Yoenis Cespedes smacked a two-run homer and a triple, accounting for two of Oakland's three hits against Scherzer. The A's struck out 16 times.

After needing to win its final six games last year to claim its first AL West title since 2006, Oakland proved 2012 was no fluke. Thanks to another September swoon from Texas, the A's ran away with the AL West crown again.

The A's will turn to rookie Sonny Gray to start Game 2.

Scherzer had allowed just a hit through his first six frames before Brandon Moss reached on an infield single to start the seventh and Cespedes drilled a 2-2 fastball deep into the seats in left-center to pull the hosts within 3-2.

Scherzer then retired the next three A's in order before turning the ball over to Detroit's shaky bullpen, which held down the fort.

Drew Smyly picked up the first two outs of the eighth before giving way to the closer Joaquin Benoit, who notched the final out of the frame. Benoit then struck out the side in the ninth to record his first career postseason save.

Earlier, Austin Jackson led off the game with a double down the right field line before Torii Hunter was hit by a pitch. Cabrera stepped up next and brought Jackson home with a single up the middle. Prince Fielder then grounded into a double play, which plated Hunter. Martinez ripped a double into the gap in left-center and scored on Avila's base hit for Detroit's early 3-0 lead.

"We've said often too that with a starting pitcher, a lot of time they're most vulnerable early in the game," said Oakland manager Bob Melvin. "But he settled down real nicely after that and pitched well."

Cespedes belted a one-out triple off the wall in the second, but was stranded there as Josh Reddick struck out and Stephen Vogt lined out to Fielder at first to end the threat.

The Tigers had a chance to tack on runs in the sixth.

Martinez and Avila cracked back-to-back one-out singles before Omar Infante poked a base hit to right. Martinez, though, was thrown out at the plate by Reddick. Andy Dirks then popped out to conclude the inning.

Game Notes

In Scherzer, Verlander and No. 3 starter Anibal Sanchez, the Tigers produced three 200-strikeout pitchers on the same team for just the third time in history and the first since the 1969 Houston Astros ... Detroit was 3-for-6 with runners in scoring position, while Oakland finished 0-for-3 with RISP ... Scherzer tossed 78 of his 118 pitches for strikes.