Max Scherzer was back at it again on Thursday afternoon, as his 14 strikeouts paced the Detroit Tigers to a 5-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates to end the four-game series against the National League Central Division contender. The Tigers (65-54) won back-to-back games over the Pirates (64-57) to bring themselves to a tie at the top of the American League Central with the Kansas City Royals, who began their game on Thursday at 2:10 p.m.
Scherzer’s previous high this season for strikeouts was 13, and now the All-Star pitcher has lowered his ERA to 2.98, the lowest on the Tigers’ starting staff. The Missouri product went eight innings total, shutting out the Pirates while allowing just three hits and two walks. Scherzer also threw a season-high 121 pitches.
The bullpen woes continued again on Thursday when Phil Coke came on in relief for Scherzer, and gave up a two-run homer to Gaby Sanchez. After facing three batters, Joba Chamberlain closed the door for the Tigers, picking up the save.
J.D. Martinez broke up Francisco Liriano‘s no-hitter with a home run that cleared the Tigers’ bullpen out in left field at Comerica Park. Martinez wasn’t done there, as he walked in the sixth to bring in the second run for Detroit and then singled in Miguel Cabrera in his next at-bat in the eighth. The surprise story of the 2014 season for the Tigers brought his batting average back over .300 to .303. His home run was his first since August 2 and just his second of the month.
Along with Martinez, Nick Castellanos was the only other Tiger to pick up multiple hits. Liriano previously struggled against the Tigers dating back to his days as a Minnesota Twin, but the left-hander had the Tigers’ batters baffled all game long. Castellanos also picked up his 47th and 48th RBI of his rookie season.
Liriano lasted six innings before being pulled. The former Tiger nemesis struck out nine batters but did walk four, displaying a lack of command that has hurt him at times during his professional career. Sanchez’s home run in the ninth inning was the only highlight for the Pirates’ offense, who look to really miss their All-Star center fielder Andrew McCutchen.
The Tigers will stay in Detroit over the weekend, welcoming back Austin Jackson and his new team, the Seattle Mariners. The three-game series begins on Friday with Rick Porcello (13-7, 3.11 ERA) battle James Paxton (2-0, 3.38 ERA). The Mariners (65-55) have been hot lately, winning eight of their past 10 games. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m. from Comerica Park.