Tigers pitcher nearly ties team strikeout record

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Tigers pitcher nearly ties team strikeout record

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Max Scherzer headed off the mound and toward the dugout, where manager Jim Leyland was waiting to offer a congratulatory handshake. After 15 strikeouts in seven innings, Scherzer's day was done, and the only question was whether the Detroit right-hander's fine effort would go to waste. "We're in this business to win," Scherzer said. And win the Tigers did. Alex Avila's tiebreaking, two-run single highlighted a three-run seventh that sent Detroit to a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. Scherzer's 15 strikeouts were the most by a Tigers pitcher in 40 years, and his teammates wiped out a 2-1 deficit to get him the victory. Mickey Lolich had 15 strikeouts for the Tigers against Boston on Oct. 2, 1972, and set the club record of 16 in 1969, doing it twice in less than three weeks. Scherzer's 15 strikeouts were the most by a major league pitcher this year. Miami's Anibal Sanchez had 14 against Arizona on April 28. "We've wasted a few good performances this year already," Avila said. "Hopefully, that will kind of get us on a roll a little bit." Detroit trails first-place Cleveland by three games in the AL Central. Scherzer (3-3) threw 115 pitches. He allowed four hits, including two solo homers, and a walk. Avila's hit made it 4-2. Pittsburgh scored a run in the ninth off Joaquin Benoit, but he held on for his first save this season. Detroit closer Jose Valverde has a strained back. Kevin Correia (1-5) allowed three runs and four hits in six-plus innings. Scherzer gave up seven runs in 2 2-3 innings in his first start of the season, and although he's been better since then, he entered Sunday's game with a 6.26 ERA. He was locked in from the start, throwing his first 10 pitches for strikes before finally missing the zone against Pedro Alvarez, the first hitter of the second. Scherzer got Alvarez anyway for his third strikeout of the day. "Even when I've struggled, I've always believed the next time I go out there that I'm going to have a great start, no matter what," Scherzer said. "That's always been my belief ever since I've been in the big leagues, and today was no different." All 15 of Scherzer's strikeouts were swinging. The only other pitcher since 1988 to strike out at least 15 -- all swinging -- in a game was Houston's Mike Scott, who fanned 15 Cincinnati Reds on June 8, 1990, according to STATS LLC. "My changeup was really working well today. I was able to throw it to both lefties and righties, and I was able to generate swing-and-misses out of it," Scherzer said. "I was able to throw it for a strike and throw it just underneath the zone to help generate some swing-and-miss strikeouts." Scherzer had struck out five straight -- and 10 for the game -- when Rod Barajas homered with one out in the fifth to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead. Jhonny Peralta answered with a solo shot in the bottom half. Neil Walker hit a 407-foot homer in the sixth, and Scherzer's pitch count began creeping up, precluding a run at the big league record of 20 strikeouts for a nine-inning game. Scherzer was actually on the hook for a loss when Leyland offered his handshake after the top of the seventh, the signal that a reliever would be entering in the eighth. But Prince Fielder led off the bottom of the seventh with a blooper to left that dropped between shortstop Clint Barmes and left fielder Nate McLouth. Barmes had a long way to run because the infield was shifted around to the right, and when the ball hit the ground, it bounced weirdly up off him into foul territory, enabling Fielder to reach second with a double. Delmon Young followed with a tying single, and Tony Watson relieved Correia. Peralta drew a walk one out later, and a passed ball by Barajas allowed the runners to move up to second and third. The Pirates brought the infield in, but Avila's base hit up the middle foiled that strategy and made it 4-2. Detroit was without center fielder Austin Jackson (abdominal strain) and Valverde, but the Tigers ended up taking two of three from Pittsburgh. Scherzer and Justin Verlander bookended the series with brilliant pitching performances. Verlander threw a one-hit shutout Friday night, striking out 12 and giving up only a ninth-inning single to Josh Harrison. The Pirates struck out 17 times Sunday and 41 times in the series. NOTES: Detroit's Brennan Boesch had his 12-game hitting streak snapped. ... Pittsburgh dropped to 19-9 when scoring at least two runs. ... The Tigers are off Monday. The Pirates return home and will send LHP Erik Bedard (2-5) to the mound against Johan Santana (1-2) of the New York Mets.

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

How Indians regrouped and reloaded after losing unforgettable Game 7 to Cubs

MESA, Ariz. — As Major League Baseball officials responded to an unbelievably timed rain delay, Cleveland president of baseball operations Chris Antonetti huddled in a suite beneath Progressive Field and recognized what he saw in Cubs executives Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer after nine innings in a World Series Game 7.

"(We're) trying to figure out: Hey, what's going to happen here? How long are we going to have to wait? Are we going to have to pick up this game tomorrow?" Antonetti said. "I remember the look on both Jed and Theo's faces — it was the same as mine — just like exhaustion and fatigue and angst."

Soon enough, Epstein would be standing in the visiting dugout, his black suit completely drenched, winging it through a CSN Chicago postgame show interview: "Jed's in charge. I'm going on a bender."

However Cleveland fans processed the 10th inning — at least LeBron James had already delivered the city's first major sports title since 1964 — the Indians regrouped and reloaded as one of the favorites to win the 2017 World Series.

Danny Salazar — who hadn't built himself back up to full strength by the Fall Classic — threw two scoreless innings during Sunday afternoon's 1-1 tie in front of a sellout crowd at Sloan Park in Mesa. The Indians also survived and advanced into early November without frontline starter Carlos Carrasco (broken right pinkie finger) throwing a single playoff pitch or All-Star outfielder Michael Brantley (right shoulder complications) playing beyond May.

But the Indians didn't just sit back in their comfort zone this winter and simply hope for good medical reports and assume their young core players would improve. Sensing an opportunity, Cleveland swooped in around Christmastime and made a three-year, $60 million commitment to Edwin Encarnacion, who put up 42 homers and 127 RBIs last season for the Blue Jays, weakening the team that lost the American League Championship Series.

"It certainly has a positive impact on the momentum that we established and revenue heading into the following season," Antonetti said. "But I still think beyond that, it's been a big leap of faith by our ownership to really step out beyond what may make sense, just looking at where our projections might be.

"It's really a belief in our fan base that they'll continue to support our team and build on the momentum from last year."

Cleveland already paid the price for Andrew Miller — the Yankees wanted Kyle Schwarber or Javier Baez from the Cubs as a starting point last summer — and now control the game-changing reliever for two more pennant races. The Indians also invested $6.5 million in Boone Logan — a reliever the Cubs had monitored closely — when the lefty specialist lingered on the open market until early February.

Between the future Hall of Fame manager (Terry Francona), a Cy Young Award winner (Corey Kluber), the young All-Star shortstop (Francisco Lindor) and the dude from Glenbrook North (Jason Kipnis), Cleveland has way too much talent to be consumed with what could have been in Game 7.

"Hopefully, our guys learned from all of their experiences," Antonetti said. "They went through a lot last year. But I think at the same time, we have an appreciation and realize how hard it is to win, and how hard it was to get to the postseason.

"Continuing that mindset — and remembering what helped us get there — will benefit our guys the most. They'll reflect back and realize we didn't just show up and end up in the postseason and in the World Series. We started that work on Day 1 of the offseason and Day 1 in spring training."

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

Kurt Busch steals a monster of a win in Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (AP) - Kurt Busch had a monster start to the season with a last-lap pass to win the crash-filled Daytona 500.

Busch is sponsored by Monster Energy, which kicked off its first season as the title sponsor for NASCAR's top series Sunday with the season-opener. It wasn't NASCAR finest moment, though, as multiple accidents pared down the field and had a mismatched group of drivers racing for the win at the end.

"The more that becomes unpredictable about Daytona, the more it becomes predictable to predict unpredictability," Busch said. "This car's completely thrashed. There's not a straight panel on it. The strategy today, who knew what to pit when, what segments were what. Everybody's wrecking as soon as we're done with the second segment.

"The more that I've run this race, the more that I just throw caution to the wind, let it rip and just elbows out. That's what we did."

It appeared to be pole-sitter Chase Elliott's race to lose, then he ran out of gas. So did Kyle Larson, Martin Truex Jr. and Paul Menard. As they all slipped off the pace, Busch sailed through for his first career Daytona 500 victory.

It also was the first Daytona 500 win for Stewart-Haas Racing, which is co-owned by Tony Stewart. The three-time champion retired at the end of last season and watched his four cars race from the pits.

"I ran this damn race (17) years and couldn't win it, so finally won it as an owner," Stewart said.

Ryan Blaney finished second in a Ford. AJ Allmendinger was third in a Chevrolet, and Aric Almirola was fourth for Richard Petty Motorsports.

The win was a huge boost for Ford, which lured Stewart-Haas Racing away from Chevrolet this season and celebrated the coup with its second Daytona 500 victory in three years. Joey Logano won in a Ford in 2015.

The first points race of the Monster era was run under a new format that split the 500 miles into three stages. Kyle Busch won the first stage, Kevin Harvick won the second stage and neither was a contender for the win. NASCAR also this year passed a rule that gave teams just five minutes to repair any damage on their cars or they were forced to retire.

But the race was slowed by wreck after wreck after wreck, including a 17-car accident at the start of the final stage that ended the race for seven-time and reigning series champion Jimmie Johnson and Danica Patrick. It was a particularly rough incident for Patrick and her Stewart-Haas Racing team, which had all four of its cars collected in the accident.

"Just seems like that could have been avoided and was uncalled for," Johnson said of the aggressive racing behind him that triggered the accident.