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Max Scherzer Dominates Again, But Tigers Fall in Extras

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Detroit 1, Minnesota 2 (10 inn.) (box)

As Matt pointed out in the recap of Tuesday’s game, the season for the Tigers is essentially over. With that in mind, I’ve decided to approach the rest of the year as if standings didn’t exist. We’ll see how long that lasts, but I’m hopeful that I can stay away from the doom and gloom pieces down the stretch.

The Tigers fell to 1-7 at Minnesota’s new Target Field and as Mickey York said after the game, I’m kinda starting to miss the Metrodome. You simply cannot say enough about the performance that Max Scherzer gave last night, but his outing was marred by a lacked of support and then by a lack of relief.

The Tigers had runners on the bases frequently early in the ballgame against Francisco Liriano, but each time they threatened, Liriano was able to wiggle off the hook. Meanwhile, Scherzer was working with efficiency and effectiveness throughout the first four innings.

In the fifth, the Twins finally managed to record their first hit, a double down the right field line by Delmon Young on the first pitch of the at bat. Danny Valencia singled on the next pitch to move Young to third. Then Jose Morales sent a deep drive to center field that Austin Jackson had little chance to catch.

Like he’s done so many times this year, however, Jackson was able to run it down, making a marvelous over-the-shoulder catch as he approached the wall. Young was able to tag and score, but Valencia was easy pickings as he tried to get back to first.

The score would stay 1-0 Twins until the eighth when Liriano was no longer in the game. Jackson began the inning with a single and two batters and two pitchers later was still standing at first. Matt Guerrier was summoned to pitch to Miguel Cabrera, but eventually lost him to a walk. That set the stage for Jhonny Peralta to tie the game with soft line drive single to center.

The Tigers finally went to the bullpen in the tenth and Ryan Perry wasted no time in digging himself a hole. Perry, you’ll recall, walked in the tying run on Tuesday before allowing a game-winning single to the next batter. Both of those runs were charged to Phil Coke. Last night, Perry had no one to blame but himself.

Three batters, that’s all he faced. Perry gave up a lead-off single to Michael Cuddyer, who stole second base when Young struck out on a 3-2 pitch. The next batter was Valencia, a rookie, who was hitting .394 with RISP coming into the at bat. Valencia bats right handed and the on-deck batter, Morales, would hit from the left side. Perhaps that’s why they elected to go after Valencia instead of the much less experienced Morales. Maybe they were worried that Jason Kubel might be used to pinch hit should the game come down to Morales. Whatever the reason, Perry pitched to Valencia, and the Twins third baseman won the game with a sharp single to center.

The only silver lining in the game last night was Scherzer. Max continued to dominate opposing clubs, just as he has since being recalled from Triple-A back in May. He threw just 106 pitches while recording 27 outs. He allowed only four hits and one walk while striking out nine Minnesota batters. The Tigers dreamt of the possibilities of sending three aces to the mound before the season began. That hasn’t gone as planned for much of the season, but lately, Scherzer and Rick Porcello have joined Justin Verlander in turning in stellar performances. The future of the rotation looks bright.

The problems for the Tigers in this series have been two-fold, but neither involves the starting pitching. On Tuesday, Armando Galarraga pitched well enough, especially when you factor in that he was facing his personal kryptonite in the Twins. Tigers starters have combined to hold Minnesota to just three runs over 15 innings in this series, but in 19 innings of baseball, the offense has managed only four runs versus Minnesota.

Perry gave up the lead on Tuesday and he did so again last night. Coke wasn’t able to do his job on Tuesday, either, loading the bases before Perry came in. A bullpen that was so dominate early in the season has faltered a great deal in the second half. It will be interesting to see how Leyland handles to final few weeks of the season. Will he give Robbie Weinhardt some late-inning chances? I hope so because Perry doesn’t throw enough strikes to be trusted late in games.

There has been some chatter once again this year about the Tigers needing to part ways with Joel Zumaya in the offseason. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy and fans are growing tired of waiting on it to happen. There is no way the Tigers non-tender Zumaya, people. He’s still young and still pretty cheap (he made less than $1 million this year), and the reward far outweighs the risk of keeping him around.

Want proof? Look at the last two games. It’s worth a million bucks to the Tigers to see if next year, Zumaya might be the guy taking the ball in those situations instead of Perry.