Scherzer bears down on Jays for victory

Scherzer bears down on Jays for victory

TORONTO -- When you're working with half your arsenal, you're going to be half the pitcher.

According to Tigers manager Jim Leyland, that's exactly what starting pitcher Max Scherzer was coping with earlier this season. He was showing up to duel without his pistol fully loaded.

Thankfully for both Scherzer and the Tigers, the right-hander has since curbed this trend, and after being recalled from Triple-A Toledo at the end of May, he has shown complete dominance over his fastball, changeup and slider. To boot, he's mastered pitching inside with conviction.

Using eight outstanding innings from the new-and-improved Scherzer -- and a big six-run fourth inning, which included home runs from Jhonny Peralta and Gerald Laird -- the Tigers were able to glide past the Blue Jays, 7-1, on Thursday night at Rogers Centre.

Entering Thursday riding consecutive wins, Scherzer picked right up where he left off. The St. Louis native cruised through his first six innings, allowing just four hits and one walk, while mowing down five Jays.

His one and only blemish of the night came in the seventh, when Major League home run leader Jose Bautista rung a solo blast off the foul pole in left -- his 41st of the season.

"I think I threw the ball pretty well tonight," Scherzer said. "I can live with a solo bomb."

All in all, the righty went eight innings, surrendering six hits and the lone run to Bautista. He tossed in eight punchouts and pushed his season record over the .500 threshold (10-9) for the first time all year.

Since June 15, Scherzer has posted a 1.85 ERA with an 8-3 mark -- an improvement Leyland doesn't need stats to see.

"I think he has an air about him now," Leyland said. "I think it was a little bit strange for him coming over from a different league. I think he wasn't sure what to expect. I think he figured something out.

"The key for Scherzer has been -- he's pitching with three pitches now. He was pitching with 1 1/2 pitches early in the season ... he's pitching with three pitches now. He's also got the ability to have a little extra in the tank when he needs it."

Leyland said that Scherzer had the fastball and a half-decent changeup. With his evolution has blossomed a plus fastball (whith hit upwards of 95 mph in the eighth), a solid changeup and a put-away slider.

"I needed all my pitches all night," Scherzer said. "Didn't throw my slider as well as I am able to, [but] made up with a couple of good changeups tonight. Obviously, pitching everywhere with the fastball and throwing a good changeup allowed me to have success tonight."

Scherzer, who admittedly tends to "dial it up" when his team piles on the run support, was able to turn his dial up after the Tigers' red-hot offense -- 50 runs over their past seven games -- broke out for a six-run fourth off Ricky Romero.

After a leadoff single to Ramon Santiago, Johnny Damon walked to put runners on first and second. Miguel Cabrera then flew out to center field, advancing Santiago to third on the play. In what should have been the second out of the inning, Ryan Raburn hit a soft ground ball to third, but Edwin Encarnacion was unable to catch Damon sliding into second, throwing the ball into right field and allowing Santiago to trot home.

With one out still in the inning and runners on third and first, Peralta -- who also added an RBI walk in the seventh -- launched a three-run shot deep to left field -- his 13th of the season.

The offensive assault did not stop there. With two outs, Casper Wells, playing in just his seventh career game, walked to keep the inning alive. Laird, taking advantage of a laboring Romero, took a 2-0 offering into the left-field seats.

"I'm tickled for him," Leyland said of Laird. "Tough situation yesterday [hitting into a game-ending double play in extra innings], but he bounced back tonight and hit a big home run for us. It's nice to see things happen to people who work hard and try hard. I think he's been pressing all year for the most part, so it's nice to see him get some rewards here. It was a big home run for us. I was thrilled for Gerald."

With the game virtually out of reach in the ninth, Cabrera had a special moment of his own. The slugger hit his 40th double of the season, making him only the fourth Tiger to have at least 40 doubles and 30 home runs in a season. The others to have accomplished the feat are: Hank Greenberg (1935, '37, '39 and '40), Rudy York ('40) and Bobby Higginson ('00).

Despite Cabrera's milestone, and a solid performance from the Tigers' offense and defense, the night belonged to Scherzer -- and his effort to keep Detroit's playoff hopes on life support.

"It's good whenever you have a guy that's going to toe the rubber and take it to the other team," Laird said of Scherzer. "Win or lose, he's going to still be confident and go out there as best he can.

"It's just fun having a guy that you know is going to be a bulldog out there."

James Hall is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.