Forced to scratch one of the AL's hottest hurlers from his scheduled start Friday night, the visiting Tigers turn to rookie Drew Smyly as their quest for a second straight division title continues against the Minnesota Twins .
A lingering shoulder problem prompted Detroit (84-72) to announce Thursday that Scherzer won't start the opener of this three-game set. The injury diminished his velocity Sunday, when Minnesota dealt the right-hander his first loss since July 30.
"I want to be able to, but at the same time, when you have a recurring injury like this, you can't get back onto the mound again before you're 100 percent," the 16-game winner said.
His 68 strikeouts and 1.77 ERA since Aug. 10 are tops in the AL, and he has six of Detroit's 24 wins in that span.
Scherzer is unsure if he's done for the regular season but surely hopes to get a shot in the playoffs, having keyed the Tigers' push past Chicago for the Central lead. They're coming off a four-game sweep of Kansas City, capped by a 5-4 walkoff win Thursday in a game which saw Doug Fister set an AL record with nine consecutive strikeouts.
"We have to be able to win tight games like this," said Alex Avila , whose bases-loaded groundout drove in the winning run. "It's the only way we're going to be able to get in the playoffs and go far in the playoffs."
Now Detroit goes with a pitcher who is winless since July 6 and has made two starts since the All-Star break. Smyly (4-3, 4.24 ERA) spent the first half of the season in the rotation before missing six weeks with a strained side muscle, then lost his spot following the acquisition of Anibal Sanchez .
Smyly was pitching poorly out of the bullpen before getting a spot start Sunday, holding the Twins scoreless for four innings before loading the bases in the fifth and getting pulled. Minnesota would win 2-1 in 10 innings to sweep a doubleheader after Scott Diamond beat Scherzer in the opener.
Diamond (12-8, 3.64) gave up two runs in seven innings of that 10-4 victory, and he'll face Detroit again Friday. He had gone 1-3 with a 7.36 ERA over his previous five outings.
"After my last couple starts, I've worked really hard on keeping the ball down in the zone," said Diamond, 1-2 in four starts versus the Tigers despite a 3.08 ERA.
His outing Sunday is the only time in the Twins' past 15 games that a pitcher lasted seven innings. The starting staff is 2-7 with a 6.04 ERA in that span.
Minnesota (65-91) shares the Central basement and the AL's worst record with Cleveland but is 7-8 in this season series.
Detroit, though, has won 13 of 16 at Target Field, including 5-1 this year while batting .326, and the Twins have lost seven of their last eight series at home.
Prince Fielder is 12 for 23 in Minnesota this season and enters on an 11-for-24 tear.
Miguel Cabrera is a .411 career hitter at Target Field and has batted .400 in the season series with five homers and 23 RBIs. He's homerless in six games after hitting seven in a 10-game stretch.
While Cabrera's 42 homers are one behind Josh Hamilton for the major league lead, his 133 RBIs are well ahead of the Texas slugger for that position. Another threat to his Triple Crown bid is Minnesota's Joe Mauer , the three-time AL batting champion who is hitting .323 while Cabrera leads at .326.
Mauer has hit .408 over his last 12 games and .413 in his last 11 versus Detroit.
|September 27, 2012||Max Scherzer||Day-to-Day||Right deltoid strain|
|September 18, 2012||Max Scherzer||Day-to-Day||Left game - right shoulder fatigue|
|September 16, 2012||Austin Jackson||Day-to-Day||Sore left ankle|
|September 11, 2012||Ryan Raburn||15-Day DL||Strained right quadriceps|
|August 23, 2012||Doug Fister||Day-to-Day||Tightness in right groin|
|August 23, 2012||Miguel Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right ankle soreness|
|September 26, 2012||Samuel Deduno||Day-to-Day||Left game - left eye irritation|
|September 11, 2012||Joe Mauer||Day-to-Day||Back spasms|
|September 09, 2012||Cole De Vries||15-Day DL||Cracked rib|
|September 02, 2012||Josh Willingham||Day-to-Day||Slightly strained left hamstring|
|August 28, 2012||Denard Span||15-Day DL||Strained right sternoclavicular joint|
|August 28, 2012||Denard Span||15-Day DL||Strained right sternoclavicular joint|
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Miguel Cabrera and the Detroit Tigers can't stand still. The Chicago White Sox are right behind them.
Ryan Doumit had four RBIs for Minnesota, including the go-ahead two-run double in the eighth inning to help the Twins beat the Tigers 4-2 on Friday and cut the their lead in the AL Central back to one game on the White Sox.
After gaining five games on the White Sox in nine days, the Tigers let their grip slip a little after a four-game sweep of Kansas City. Chicago ended Tampa Bay's eight-game winning streak with a 3-1 victory.
"Nothing comes easy for us, it seems like. We knew the White Sox weren't going to go away," catcher Gerald Laird said.
Rookie Drew Smyly struck out five over 5 1-3 scoreless innings, allowing only two hits in a fill-in start for Max Scherzer , but Brayan Villarreal (3-5) walked three to load the bases in the eighth before Doumit's one-out hit put the Twins ahead.
"Villarreal just didn't have it," manager Jim Leyland said, adding: "We got beat. It's simple. They did more than we did."
Doumit exploited an error by Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder to start the seventh inning, following with a broken-bat home run off Phil Coke that made it 2-0. Omar Infante 's two-run homer after an error by Justin Morneau spoiled Scott Diamond 's shutout in the eighth, tying the game at 2, but Glen Perkins picked up his 16th save with a perfect ninth inning after Doumit's next drive.
"Unfortunately for us watching the scoreboard won't help us. But we can go out there and be a part of one with the other team," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You're looking out there and seeing the Mighty Whities are winning. And we're in one of those twister games. So it is fun."
Cabrera had two hits for the Tigers to raise his league-leading average to .327, but he was thrown out at the plate to end the sixth.
The inning started with a line drive he sent screaming toward right field so hard he thought it was gone, standing to watch it soar before realizing the ball would hit the wall and hustling down the base line. Right fielder Ben Revere , a weak thrower, fired a perfect one-hopper to second to keep Cabrera at first.
Fielder followed with a single, so had Cabrera been able to get second base on his hit he might've scored.
"You watched the game, didn't you?" Leyland said, when asked if he thought Cabrera could've gotten a double.
Delmon Young singled to right after that, and Cabrera was determined to give the Tigers their first run. But Revere's throw was strong and on line, beating Cabrera to the plate to end the inning when he slid instead of colliding into batting title competitor Joe Mauer . Cabrera got up gingerly, but Leyland said he didn't think his star slugger's ankle was bothering him.
Cabrera didn't want to talk about the game afterward.
"He doesn't run like Quintin Berry ," Leyland said, when asked if Cabrera was able to go full speed.
Mauer fell five points behind Cabrera by going 0 for 2, but the chase is even more intriguing given Cabrera's legitimate chance to become the first player since 1967 to lead the league in batting, home runs and RBIs in the same season. Cabrera's triple crown depends on holding Mauer off and surpassing Josh Hamilton (42) and Edwin Encarnacion (41) in the home run category. He's gone deep 41 times. He has a comfortable lead in RBIs.
Smyly, the team's second-round draft pick in 2010, made his 18th major league start. He was bumped to the bullpen when the Tigers acquired Anibal Sanchez , but he still has a lot of value. He started the second game of the doubleheader last weekend, and when Scherzer was scratched because of a lingering shoulder problem the 23-year-old left-hander got the call again.
Diamond, in three starts against the Tigers this season, has been dominant. Infante's drive was the first homer he gave up against them. Diamond finished 21 innings, allowing only 15 hits and six runs.
"That's a good team, and this is twice in a row he's thrown well against them, so this is fun," Doumit said.
NOTES: Leyland said he's "not counting" on Scherzer being able to start on Wednesday, so Smyly will probably pitch in the regular season finale. "Mark this down and take it to the bank: Scherzer won't pitch unless he is physically ready to pitch, under any circumstances," Leyland said. ... The Tigers will send RH Justin Verlander (16-8, 2.72 ERA) to the mound on Saturday afternoon against RH P.J. Walters (2-4, 5.88 ERA). Walters pitched six strong innings against the Tigers last Sunday, allowing one run in the second half of the doubleheader. Verlander, the reigning AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner, has won six of his last eight starts. ... Leyland said he put Villarreal in because RH Octavio Dotel had soreness in his biceps. "I don't think it's a big deal," Dotel said.