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Scherzer gives American League a perfect start

Scherzer gives American League a perfect start

Scherzer gives American League a perfect start

NEW YORK -- A year after Prince Fielder helped convince Justin Verlander to throw 101 mph in his All-Star Game start, Torii Hunter mobbed Max Scherzer in the dugout about throwing 99.

That was about the only parallel between the two outings.

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Scherzer said a few times that he wasn't going to repeat Verlander's wild first inning in last year's All-Star Game. Scherzer's 12-pitch perfect inning in Tuesday night's 3-0 American League victory couldn't have been more different.

The man who preaches about his final 15 pitches of a game being most important didn't even need that many in his first Midsummer Classic. Yet, as his 99-mph fastball over the plate froze the Reds' Joey Votto for a called third strike and the final out, Scherzer looked like he was wrapping up one of those performances.

Scherzer took his usual exit handshake from manager Jim Leyland, took congratulations from Verlander, then saw Hunter jumping and down.

"Yeah, he saw that 99 on the last pitch to Votto and he came in and he was having so much fun with me, because I haven't hit that in a while," Scherzer said. "That's what it's about when you have success, enjoying it with your teammates. He's one of the best teammates in the game. That's what makes these games special."

Actually, there were a lot of reasons for this game to be special for Scherzer -- his first All-Star appearance, his first start, with his parents and fiance watching from the stands. The challenge was to make sure he could still approach it like any other outing.

Tigers coaches figured Scherzer would handle the starting assignment well. While Verlander talked last year after his five-run inning about fans wanting to see him hit triple digits on the radar gun, Scherzer is more high-strikeout than high-power.

Still, pitching coach Jeff Jones said he would talk with him just to make sure.

"I'm going to tell him I want you to come out and pitch the same way you do in the first inning of any game," Jones said during batting practice. "Because I don't think it's going to be beneficial command-wise at the mound to try to do more. There's no sense in getting out of whack while you're here.

"You don't want to change anything. We'll talk about it. We'll keep him calmed down."

Scherzer said Jones didn't have to tell him anything.

"I knew I had to be like that," Scherzer said. "My game's coming out there and attacking you. I was able to do that tonight, attack with all pitches. I thought I showed my best stuff tonight."

After a second-pitch flyout from Cincinnati's Brandon Phillips, Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran worked the count full before Scherzer induced a groundout to first, with Scherzer taking the throw from Chris Davis and beating Beltran to the bag.

The at-bat against Votto showed Scherzer at his finest. He used his curveball, the pitch he has honed over the last year to give him another option against left-handed hitters like Votto, to drop a first-pitch strike on the inside corner. From there, he sent down Votto on fastballs -- a 96-mph offering spotted for strike two, a 98-mph heater that Votto fouled off, and finally a 99-mph strike three.

From there on out, he was a fan. Seven innings later, as Mariano Rivera took the mound, Scherzer was standing outside the dugout helping lead the applause.

It'll be the only pitching Scherzer does this week. He'll make his first start out of the break next Monday against the White Sox in Chicago. The memories he takes will last a lot longer.

"It's just fun," Scherzer said. "It's a dream come true. For me to be able to start the All-Star Game and be able to have the success I did, you just take it all in. What can you say? I had such a great day today. I had such a great time with everybody here. This is something I'll never forget."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. 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.

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