Max Scherzer is probably going to wind up winning the American League Cy Young award this year — we’ll save the talk about the merits of wins for another day. Whatever your feelings are on the award, the Tigers righty saved his best for the eighth inning of the ALDS Tuesday night in Detroit against the Athletics.
The Tigers, looked all but dead earlier in the game, but had taken a 5-4 lead in the seventh. Scherzer promptly issued a leadoff walk to Brandon Moss followed by a Yoenis Céspedes double. Tigers manager Jim Leyland elected to walk Seth Smith intentionally to load the bases.
Panic time in Motown, right? Actually PANIC TIME in Motown is more appropriate way to describe the feeling inside Comerica Park.
From there Scherzer, who came on in the seventh in relief of Doug Fister, struck out Josh Reddick on a sinking changeup. He then fanned Stephen Vogt on a 98-mph fastball. Finally Scherzer got pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo to line out to Austin Jackson in center for the final out of the inning.
It was nerve-wracking. It was tense. It was edge of your seat stuff. Above all, it was awesome to watch — unless you’re an Oakland fan.
As the ball landed in Jackson’s glove, the entire city of Detroit collectively exhaled.
The Tigers tacked on three runs in the bottom of the eighth — which they needed as the A’s rallied against Joaquin Benoit in the ninth. Detroit held on, with Benoit striking out Smith who represented the tying run, to win 8-6 and force a Game 5 in Oakland Thursday night.
Credit Scherzer for bearing down in the highest of high-leverage spots. He got a big-time assist from Reddick — who was up 3-1 in the count –via his wild, over-aggressive swing. The ball he swung for strike three wasn’t even close to being a strike and would have walked in the tying run.
Playoff baseball, man.
[GIF via @WorldofIsaac]