You never know which Max Scherzer is going to show up for the Tigers, The man with the split pitching personality had a 4.43 ERA during the regular season, but that tells us little about what we can expect from him in a given game. That's because his pitching performance is as inconsistent as his eye color (Most of you know that he is a heterochromiac with one brown eye and one blue eye).
When the game starts, fans wonder whether they'll see the Dr, Jekyll version of Scherzer who allowed two earned runs or fewer in 20 starts; Or if they get the Mr Hyde who allowed five or more earned runs nine times. Because he is so unpredictable, many internet posters including myself declared Scherzer to be the key to the Tigers playoff success. If the good Scherzer shows up more often or not, we figure that the Tigers should be in good shape.
Today, the good Scherzer showed up in Yankee Stadium. The Tigers right hander had a no hitter going until a single off the bat of Robinson Cano landed in front of lumbering left fielder Delmon Young with one out in the sixth. Scherzer left the game with a 4-0 lead after allowing the first two batters to reach in the seventh.
Jim Leyland decided to bring on set up man Joaquin Benoit for a rare early appearance in the seventh. During the regular season. Benoit had pitched more than one inning just three times. He proceeded to retire the Yankees in order to get out of the seventh inning. He stayed in to pitch the eighth and allowed one run on a homer to the left-handed batting Curtis Granderson.
Meanwhile, the Tigers gave Scherzer some early support when Miguel Cabrera hit a two-run home run down the right field line in the first off Yankees starter Freddy Garcia. Cabrera added two more hits including an RBI single in the seventh. Veteran Magglio Ordonez had three singles in three trips and scored two runs. Not to be forgotten was an RBI single by Don Kelly giving the Tigers a 5-1 lead in the ninth.
The bottom of the ninth may have started with a rainbow in the outfield, but this wasn't going to be a happy tension-free finish for the Tigers. Closer Jose Valverde, who often struggles in non-save situations, did his best Fernando Rodney imitation. Outfielder Nick Swisher led off with a homer to make it 5-2. Designated hitter Jorge Posada followed with a triple which center fielder Austin Jackson may have been able reach if the field was not so wet from earlier rain showers.
Two outs later with a man on first and the Tigers leading 5-3 under another heavy rain, Papa Grande retired Granderson on a pop to catcher Alex Avila to end the game. At least, that what we thought. Instead Avila slipped on the wet Yankee logo in the on deck circle and the ball dropped foul. It was an eery reminder of the 2006 World Series when Granderson, then with the Tigers, slipped in the wet grass on a routine fly ball to center.
After Granderson walked, Tigers fans watched in horror as the dangerous Cano came up with a chance to win the game. Fortunately, we were able to exhale in relief as Cano grounded routinely to Ramon Santiago at second to end the game.
The series now goes to Detroit where the Tigers will have a chance to win the series in Comerica Park. The drama continues tomorrow night when Justin Verlander faces CC Sabathia at 8:37.