Scherzer solid, though stung by late homer
Righty settled down after rocky start, but allowed Cruz to tie it
ARLINGTON -- The Tigers' 7-3 loss to the Rangers in Game 2 of the American League Championship Series on Monday ended how it began, with an outburst by the Texas offense.
Buried in the middle innings at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, though, was an extended stretch that told a better story for the Tigers and starting pitcher Max Scherzer.
Nelson Cruz, the same player who won the game in the 11th inning with a walk-off grand slam, tied the game at 3 in the seventh with a leadoff homer on Scherzer's final pitch. That came one inning after Scherzer had to work out of a first-and-third jam, but Tigers manager Jim Leyland said the decision to send Scherzer out for the seventh wasn't one to second-guess.
"I wanted the ball. My arm felt great," said Scherzer, who gave up three runs in six innings and threw 91 pitches in a no-decision. "This is the postseason, I want the ball."
"I was going to let him have Cruz, obviously," Leyland said. "If Cruz got on, I was going to bring in a lefty [to face David Murphy]. If he got Cruz out, I was going to let him go. I thought he was throwing great. He was throwing tremendous."
The pitch that Cruz deposited in the left-field stands was a 1-2 fastball that catcher Alex Avila motioned for up in the zone, but one that didn't reach high enough and found the center of the plate.
"I wanted a little bit farther up than that," Avila said. "You've got to tip your cap, he turned around on a 95-mph fastball."
Scherzer's first inning was shaky. He gave up a pair of runs on three hits, hardly providing the start the Tigers needed with a 1-0 series deficit. But he reined in the Texas offense from there, and for a while was in the driver's seat. After Cruz -- ominously, in hindsight -- doubled to start the second, Scherzer set down 12 in a row through the fifth inning.
Scherzer's final line included six hits allowed, one walk and six strikeouts.
"I was calm, cool and collected the whole day," said Scherzer, who improved with keeping his pitches down after allowing a pair of doubles in the first. "I knew I needed to start throwing up some goose eggs to give our team a chance to start scoring some runs, and obviously [Ryan] Raburn was able to give us a big home run."
Raburn's three-run shot in the third inning gave Scherzer a 3-2 lead to work with, and he cruised until Elvis Andrus walked to start the sixth. A Josh Hamilton single and a lineout later, Scherzer was in a first-and-third jam with Adrian Beltre at the plate.
It took the gold standard of sliders to strike out Beltre to notch the second out.
"Yeah, that was a slider, that was the best one I threw all day," Scherzer said. "That was probably the biggest at-bat of the day for me, to be able to execute right then and there. ... That was almost going to be an inning that gets away from us."
A Mike Napoli groundout ended the threat, and at 87 pitches, Scherzer was headed back out the next inning, with Cruz coming up.
"I was fired up," Scherzer said. "I wasn't relaxed. I just wanted to go out there and try to get the ball to [Joaquin] Benoit in the eighth, that was my mindset right there."
Evan Drellich is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.