Scherzer, Tigers pick up slack with Miggy out

Scherzer, Tigers pick up slack with Miggy out

Scherzer, Tigers pick up slack with Miggy out
DETROIT -- Jim Leyland tossed and turned all Saturday night and into Sunday morning before deciding not to play Miguel Cabrera. Then, his pitchers took away Mike Trout and Mark Trumbo again on Sunday afternoon.

Credit the middle of the Tigers' order -- from fill-in third hitter Andy Dirks to Prince Fielder and Delmon Young -- for stepping up in Cabrera's absence and powering Detroit with a three-run sixth inning in a 5-2 win over the Angels. Credit Tigers pitchers, especially Max Scherzer, for preventing the Angels from doing much of anything in the absence of Albert Pujols.

Credit Leyland, too, with making a gutsy call. He sat with a look of relief in his office after Sunday's rubber-game victory, as he recalled how on Sunday morning he wasn't going to let one game in August overrule his better judgment on Cabrera. The slugger was limited to designated-hitter duties in the previous two games by a sore right ankle.

Still, the win was big -- not only for the 6-3 homestand or the additional game over a potential American League Wild Card combatant -- but for the tone of the team.

"I really found something out about our guys today, I think," Leyland said. "I think they knew with the big guy out of there, [they needed to do something]. I think some guys really stepped up and responded."

It was a big burden for the hitters to carry.

"It's hard to pick up what he does," Fielder said. "You just want to play good baseball."

It was the same job for Scherzer, at least the way he saw it.

"Going into today, we needed to win this game," Scherzer said. "We needed to win this series. With Miguel in the lineup, I'm going to have the same mentality as with Miguel out of the lineup. For me, I was going out there to win the series today. That was my mentality."

For the second time this week, the Tigers won a series by scoring 11 runs over three games. They swept Toronto earlier by holding an injury-depleted Blue Jays lineup to seven runs.

The Angels were missing Pujols due to a bad right calf, but they still had AL Most Valuable Player candidate Trout and 30-homer-slugger Trumbo. The duo combined for four home runs, eight RBIs and eight runs over four games at Comerica Park last month.

When Trout turned a leadoff infield single into a first-inning run on Sunday by speeding from first base to third on a Maicer Izturis single to left, it was the first time either had been heard from in this series. It ended up being the last.

"I think that was one of the big keys to the series, without question," Leyland said. "We did a very good job with Trout, and we did a terrific job against Trumbo, keeping him in the park. That's 54 home runs you're talking about between the two of them."

Trout became the first player to score 100 runs this season, but struck out his next three times up. He finished the series 1-for-13 with five strikeouts. After he reached on a fielder's choice on Friday and a strikeout-wild pitch on Saturday, Trout was erased both times on double plays.

It marked just the third time in Trout's historic rookie season that he has been held to a lone hit over a three-game series in which he started each game.

"When he gets on base," catcher Gerald Laird said, "you have to make him earn it."

Trumbo, meanwhile, went 1-for-11 with a single and seven strikeouts. The only ball he hit out of the infield was a line drive to right field to start the series.

"There were a couple pitches [on Sunday where] I just think he was getting out of his plan, and I could tell as a catcher just by the body language and [him] talking to himself," Laird said. "He was maybe having trouble seeing the ball."

Scherzer (14-6) nearly duplicated his line from his start against the Angels six weeks ago, striking out nine over seven innings to recapture the Major League strikeout lead from teammate Justin Verlander, who will have a chance to take it back on Tuesday in Kansas City.

Scherzer retired 17 of his last 18 batters, eight by strikeout, after Vernon Wells' second-inning walk.

"Personally, I had a very difficult time picking up the baseball," said Angels catcher Chris Iannetta, 4-for-6 off Scherzer previously but a two-time strikeout victim on Sunday. "I've faced him in the past -- and he's very good, obviously. But I never felt like I didn't see it. Today, I couldn't pick it up until it was about halfway to the plate."

Scherzer has pitched seven innings allowing one run or fewer in each of his last three starts -- allowing two runs on 13 hits over 21 innings, with six walks and 27 strikeouts.

He didn't have a chance to pitch with a lead until his seventh and final inning. The makeshift middle of the order eventually broke through against Santana in the sixth, dealing him his first loss since July 21 and also his first loss in his last five outings against the Tigers.

Santana (7-11) retired seven of eight batters after Andy Dirks tripled in Omar Infante with two outs in the third to tie the game. But he paid dearly for walking Dirks to lead off the sixth. After spotting a first-pitch strike to Fielder, he left a fastball over the plate, which Fielder drove deep to right field for his 23rd home run of the year and a 3-1 lead.

"He made a mistake and we were able to capitalize on it," Fielder said. "He pitched well. He didn't make many mistakes. We just had to be patient."

The buzz had barely quieted over Fielder's shot when Santana left a slider over the plate for Young, whose penchant for pouncing on first pitches served him well. His drive to left was his 14th home run of the year.

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.