The Philadelphia Phillies have made almost every opposing starter look like an All-Star while struggling offensively this week.
That doesn't bode well considering they will face an actual one Saturday.Max Scherzer seeks his major league-leading 15th victory as the Detroit Tigers attempt to hand the Phillies a season-worst seventh consecutive loss.Scherzer (14-1, 3.14 ERA), who pitched a perfect opening inning for the AL in the All-Star game, came out of the break sharp Monday, allowing two solo homers and two other hits over eight innings in a 7-3 road victory over the Chicago White Sox. The right-hander won for the 20th time in his last 30 starts since Aug. 10, the most in the majors in that span."I was working ahead in the count, had four pitches going," Scherzer, who could become the first Tigers pitcher to start 15-1 dating back to at least 1919, told the team's official website. "I felt that made me effective and allowed me to have some quick innings. No walks -- that's always a recipe for success."Scherzer, making his first interleague start this year and first career appearance versus the Phillies, has had mixed results against NL opponents. He is 6-6 with a 3.79 ERA in 14 starts against the senior circuit but won both his home outings last year, striking out 27 in 15 innings in victories over Pittsburgh and Colorado.The injury-ravaged Phillies (49-54) have plated only 10 runs during their losing streak, batting .208 with 48 strikeouts in 197 at-bats, and they've scored five times in their last five. Manager Charlie Manuel thinks the looming trade deadline is also contributing to his team's woes, noting, "We've got a lot of young, inexperienced players, and they get concerned about where they are going to be playing and who is going be traded."Whatever the reasons, opposing starters have compiled a 1.36 ERA in the six contests, and the best pitcher in that group -- NL All-Star starter Matt Harvey of the New York Mets -- fanned 10 in seven innings of a 5-0 win Sunday.Having a non-existent margin of error may not have mattered much to All-Star Cliff Lee, but the left-hander was scratched due to a stiff neck -- fueling speculation the Phillies may deal him -- and gives way to Raul Valdes (1-0, 7.59 ERA). The left-hander went 3-4 with a 3.10 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 66 2/3 innings over 12 starts for Triple-A Lehigh Valley before being recalled Tuesday, when he allowed one run and two hits in 1 1/3 innings in relief of a 4-1 loss at St. Louis.Valdes, who will make his third career start and first since June 27, 2012, has never faced the Tigers.He may catch a break if slugger Miguel Cabrera is sidelined for a fifth straight game due to a sore left hip flexor. The AL MVP took batting practice prior to Friday's 2-1 victory and may be available as a DH or pinch hitter, but the Tigers (57-45) continue to be cautious with the 2012 Triple Crown winner."Obviously, you'd rather lose Miguel Cabrera for two or three games than two or three weeks," trainer Kevin Rand told the team's official website. "He's feeling a lot better, but he still feels he needs another day or so. It's important for us to make sure that he's right before he comes back."Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter should be available after missing Friday's win due to a sore Achilles he said occurred by wearing dress shoes that were too tight. He is 6 for 14 with three homers in his last four games.
The Tigers scored at least 10 runs in a game for the 11th time this season on Saturday, tied for the most such games in the American League and second most in the majors, trailing only the Cardinals (13 times).
The Tigers scored 10 or more runs in a game eight times all of last season.
Max Scherzer needed just 75 pitches to get win number 15 tonight, that's the fewest pitches he's needed to record a win in his career (163 appearances).
From Elias: Max Scherzer has struck out at least 5 batters in each of his 21 starts this season, the 3rd-longest such streak to begin a season by an AL pitcher all-time.
Max Scherzer is third starter in the last 60 seasons to win a game by allowing 1 hit or fewer on his birthday. The other 2 are an obscure combo-- Milt Wilcox for the 1982 Tigers (against the Royals) and Vicente Palacios for the 1994 Cardinals (against the Astros).
On a simpler note, Scherzer is the second starting pitcher to win a game on his birthday this season, joining Hisashi Iwakuma
Miguel Cabrera went 2-3 with a HR Saturday, continuing his success this season with Max Scherzer on the mound. It was his both his ninth HR and ninth multi-hit game in 21 Scherzer starts this season.