Scherzer refocuses to rebound with strong outing

Scherzer refocuses to rebound with strong outing

CLEVELAND -- Max Scherzer neither tweaked nor overhauled after giving up 10 runs to the Royals earlier in the week. He liked what he was throwing, just not what he was choosing to throw with two strikes.

Instead, as he prepared to face an Indians club that roughed him up a month ago, he refocused.

"It was zero mechanics," Scherzer said Sunday after six innings of one-run ball. "There were no mechanical issues going on. I know everybody wants to say after a bad outing there's something going on, but there wasn't. It's about execution."

Indians manager Terry Francona would agree.

"He was in a lot of deep counts," Francona said, "but if you're going to get in those deep counts, you have to make him make a pitch, and he always seemed to do that."

When the Tigers were swept out of Progressive Field in mid-May, the capper was an extra-inning loss that began with two rough innings off Scherzer, who gave up seven runs on nine hits to the first 17 batters he faced. He survived to last seven innings that day, but was clearly perturbed by the early damage and Cleveland's aggressiveness.

He saw a similar aggressiveness from them Saturday against Justin Verlander. On Sunday, he used their aggressiveness against them in the rematch, changing speeds and limiting their opportunities.

"I needed to come out and show the offspeed early," Scherzer said. "I felt like they were looking to jump on the fastball early in the game, and I was doing everything I could to not give them that pitch, not let innings get out of control. I felt like I sequenced them pretty well today. I felt like that put me in more situations to collect outs when I needed them."

He threw six changeups and four curveballs out of 23 pitches in the opening inning, then threw four more in an 11-pitch second. The rare times he threw back-to-back fastballs, he saved them for when he was ahead in the count and could get them to guess on pitches.

"He had his offspeed going really well," Jason Kipnis said. "I call him the most comfortable 0-for-4, because you see the pitches and you just can't touch them. I see what I'm trying to do and I can't do it. He had the changeup going well today."

It was that changeup that sent down Kipnis swinging with two runners on and one out in the first inning, and Scherzer called it one of the biggest outs of the game. He struck out the side that inning and fanned five of Cleveland's first 11 batters.

Those were the outs Scherzer was missing against the Royals. When he left that start, he talked about needing to finish hitters in two-strike counts.

"I came out with a better idea with what I wanted to execute today, what pitches I wanted to throw, and changed up what I wanted to do with two strikes," he said. "I was much more aggressive today about coming into the zone and not trying to nibble, not trying to pitch around a hitter. I came right after them. That's the way I pitch. That's my style.

"When I get you to two strikes, I'm coming after you. You better be ready for it. For the most part, they were ready for it They were battling, doing a good job working the count. But I think at the end of the day, I was able to execute more pitches."

It came at a cost, running out his pitch count to 63 after three innings, but it paid off. He allowed one hit and two walks, both to Michael Bourn, in two-strike counts through the first four innings.

His biggest opponent by the end was time. Detroit's seven-run fifth handed him a nine-run lead, but left him sitting long enough that he got up to throw in the tunnel. A replay review reversed an inning-ending double play and extended the fifth inning for Asdrubal Cabrera's single and Michael Brantley's RBI double.

Scherzer finished with six hits and two walks over six innings, walking two and striking out eight. The result completed a turn in the rotation that featured five quality starts in as many games, allowing six runs on 28 hits over 33 innings with five walks and 25 strikeouts.

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.