In the end, they were struggling for ways to sum up their bizarre 5-0 loss as much as they were struggling for hits off Garza. He became the first pitcher to no-hit the Tigers since Randy Johnson did it 20 years ago. The Tigers got another reminder of their offensive struggles without the injured Magglio Ordonez, Carlos Guillen and Brandon Inge.
"Garza just threw, for the most part, high fastball after high fastball all night long," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland, who watched most of the game from his office after a third-inning ejection by umpire Marty Foster.
"He mixed in a few outstanding curveballs, but really didn't use much else. Just threw fastball after fastball up top, and we just didn't get to it. But Scherzer was tremendous. He walked a couple guys that inning that killed him, but he was throwing great, too."
The Tigers have had their share of close calls on no-hit bids. Roy Halladay came within an out of doing it against Detroit to close out the 1998 season before Bobby Higginson homered.
This one was different. For one, Ben Zobrist's leaping catch in right field on Danny Worth's third-inning line drive was really the lone highlight catch among the Tigers outs, though Carl Crawford had to battle the lights atop Tropicana Field to track down Miguel Cabrera's line drive leading off the eighth.
The other difference? For two-thirds of Garza's no-no, he was going out for out with Scherzer, who had a bid of his own going.
"What was going through my mind," Johnny Damon said, "is I hope we're on the side that gets the hits."
Scherzer (7-8) entered the sixth inning with two walks and two runners stranded on third base. He was a little more erratic than Garza through five, but also more electric, striking out seven of Tampa Bay's first 18 batters.
Five of his final seven outs came by strikeout, including a called third strike on B.J. Upton to end the fifth inning with Jason Bartlett stranded on third. He got Kelly Shoppach on a swing and miss to lead off the sixth inning, then fell into the jam that proved his downfall.
"In the sixth inning, my mechanics started breaking down," Scherzer said. "I was working side-to-side and just wasn't executing pitches."
A full-count changeup cost Scherzer on the one-out walk to Ben Zobrist that started the rally. What strung it together, though, was an interference call on Gerald Laird, whose mitt was ruled to have touched Carl Crawford's bat when he fouled off a 1-1 pitch.
"I didn't even feel it, honestly," Laird said. "I think he listened to Crawford. Usually I can feel it if it hits my glove. Maybe I nicked it, but he fouled the ball off. How do you feel two things at once?"
Scherzer went to full counts on Tampa Bay's next three hitters. Only one of them made contact, but it was enough.
Scherzer survived a 3-1 fastball on Evan Longoria for a foul ball, but lost a full-count changeup inside, loading the bases. He went to a 1-2 count on Carlos Pena, missed on back-to-back fastballs to run it full, coming within a pitch of a run-scoring walk, but got Pena to chase a 93-mph heater up and out to take away the sacrifice fly opportunity.
"I thought he still had a good chance to get out of it," Leyland said.
Up came Matt Joyce, the former Tigers prospect traded to Tampa Bay two years ago to get Edwin Jackson. The Tigers traded Jackson last winter to get Scherzer. In a roundabout way, Joyce got his revenge after Scherzer again fell within a ball of a bases-loaded walk.
"Fell behind 3-1, came back with a fastball and he fouled it off," Scherzer said. "I wanted to keep challenging. I didn't want to walk him in that situation. I didn't want to walk in a run, so I had to throw a fastball because my changeup was running side-to-side.
"I grooved it and he hit it."
Not only did Scherzer not get a no-hit bid through six, he didn't last the sixth. Jason Bartlett's ensuing single brought acting manager Lloyd McClendon out of the dugout to go to the bullpen.
"That's why it's a weird game," Laird said. "In the dugout after the home run, I'm like, 'We've given up one hit and we're down, 4-0.' It's a crazy game. It's just amazing how in this game, one pitch, you can get beat. That's the way it went."
Garza (11-5) gave up the only damage against him when he walked Brennan Boesch with one out in the second inning, but he recovered to induce an inning-ending double play from Ryan Raburn. Detroit's final 22 hitters went down in order.
Tigers hitters gave Garza credit, but their frustration was evident.
"He's always had a good fastball," Damon said. "That's what I think makes this a little bit tougher, because he came right after us. We had some pitches to hit and we couldn't get anything going. Normally when you see a guy throw a no-hitter, you see a lot of chases in the dirt or whatnot. Tonight wasn't like that, so you have to tip your cap to him for coming after us. We hit a couple balls hard but that really doesn't matter in this game."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.