DETROIT – Max Scherzer allowed two hits in eight outstanding innings, and the Detroit Tigers backed their star right-hander with three early homers in an 8-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.
Ian Kinsler, Victor Martinez and Torii Hunter all went deep as part of a five-run first inning for the AL Central-leading Tigers, who have won 12 of 14. Tampa Bay’s five-game winning streak is over.
Detroit leads second-place Kansas City by five games.
Scherzer (10-3) allowed a first-inning sacrifice fly by Evan Longoria, but that was the first of 10 straight hitters retired by the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner. After allowing a single in the fourth, Scherzer retired another 13 in a row before he was pulled with a pitch count of 106.
Erik Bedard (4-6) allowed six runs and eight hits with two walks in two innings.
Miguel Cabrera had two doubles, a single and a walk for Detroit.
The Rays are still at the bottom of the AL East, and the improved starting pitching that fueled their recent run was nowhere to be seen Thursday. After a leadoff single by Austin Jackson in the first, Kinsler homered to put the Tigers ahead. Cabrera’s walk was followed by Martinez’s 21st home run.
Hunter added a solo shot with one out to make it 5-1.
It was Martinez’s first game back after he missed three with soreness in his side.
Cabrera doubled in the second and scored on J.D. Martinez’s single. He also scored on a single by Hunter in the fourth.
Scherzer, coming off a 13-strikeout performance against Houston in his previous start, fanned seven with a walk, and the Detroit defense played well behind him.
Nick Castellanos made a diving catch in the third when Desmond Jennings hit a line drive to the third baseman’s left. Then Detroit shortstop Eugenio Suarez jumped high in the air to snag a liner by Ben Zobrist.
The first seven spots of Tampa Bay’s batting order, listed by position, went CF-SS-LF-3B-1B-DH-RF – or 8-6-7-5-3-0-9. Rays manager Joe Maddon called it a “Tommy Tutone lineup” before the game, in reference to that band’s early-80s hit “867-5309/Jenny.”
Maddon may have scored points with pop music fans of a certain age, but he couldn’t have enjoyed watching Scherzer breeze through the Tampa Bay hitters. James Loney’s single in the fourth was the only baserunner the Rays managed after the first inning.
Scherzer has only one complete game in his career – a shutout of the Chicago White Sox less than a month ago. He struck out the last two hitters he faced, but manager Brad Ausmus went to the bullpen for the ninth, with a big lead and Scherzer’s pitch count in triple digits.