Tigers starter Max Scherzer hadn't thrown a complete game in 178 career starts heading into his showdown with Chris Sale on Thursday night.
But the reigning AL Cy Young winner turned in what might've been the best start of his career against the White Sox, firing a three-hit shutout to pace Detroit to a 4-0 win to stave off a sweep at U.S. Cellular Field.
"It's awesome," Scherzer said. "I finally got the monkey off my back."
Scherzer, who had a 6.84 ERA in his last four starts, was aggressive from the first pitch he threw. The right-hander attacked opposing hitters in a way manager Brad Ausmus said he hadn't in that four-start rough patch, keeping the White Sox off balance with an unpredictable mix of fastballs, sliders, curveballs and changeups.
Of the 34 batters Scherzer faced Thursday night, 20 had plate appearances that lasted three pitches or fewer. The result was a complete game in which Scherzer needed only 113 pitches, fewer than his pitch counts from his prior to starts that lasted 6 2/3 innings apiece.
"That was our goal from the get-go was to get some quick outs and try to get Max as deep in the game as we can," catcher Bryan Holaday said. "It worked out that his pitch count was down and he was able to go the distance."
Scherzer's dominant outing sort of counterbalanced the negativity surrounding fellow former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, who allowed seven runs Wednesday and has a 7.41 ERA over his last six starts. While the sample sizes aren't large, if Verlander continues trending in the wrong direction Detroit likely will need Scherzer to regain his elite form to hold off a competitive bunch of AL Central contenders.
Scherzer certainly looked the part Thursday night, squaring off against Sale and out-dueling the ace of the White Sox rotation.
"You've got to match him," Scherzer said. "We have a great offense and he's holding us down for seven innings, and fortunately I was able to go out there and execute pitches and hold their offense down, too."