By Evan Brunell
ARLINGTON, Texas -- "It's a tough pill to swallow," said Max Scherzer on the Tigers' Game 6 loss in the ALCS to the Rangers, ending Detroit's season.
Scherzer was perhaps most responsible for the Tigers losing, coughing up six runs in just 2 1/3 innings, walking four and punching out just one. Scherzer was erratic from the get-go, and it all caught up to him in a third inning from hell, when he recorded just one out, allowing three runs to cross the plate, plus an additional three charged to him after exiting the game, as Daniel Schlereth and Rick Porcello couldn't stop the bleeding.
"You want to come up huge for your team and be in this type of situation with the World Series on the line," Scherzer said, no doubt flashing back to his days as a child imagining this very situation. "To not pitch to your ability ... when that happens, that's a tough pill to swallow. ... You always want to be the guy to step up and help the team win."
"Anytime you start walking that many batters, it's bound to catch up to you," Scherzer said. "That's something I've done a pretty good job of this year, is minimizing the damage. For that to happen at this stage, at this moment, is extremely frustrating for me."
It's not as if Scherzer had struggled earlier in October, either. The right-hander defeated the Yankees in Game 2 of the ALDS, pitched 1 1/3 innings of perfect relief in Game 5, then held the Rangers to three runs in six innings in Game 2 before Nelson Cruz destroyed the Tigers with a walkoff grand slam. All told, going into Game 6, Scherzer's postseason debut saw him post a 2.70 ERA in 13 1/3 innings, walking five and striking out 13. Well, now those numbers are going to be pretty bad.
"He was out of whack for the most part all the way," manager Jim Leyland said. "His control was not good from the get-go, really. And he had a tough time. And we just couldn't stop the bleeding."
One of the most pivotal parts of Game 6 came in the third, when Scherzer thought he had Nelson Cruz struck out on a 2-2 pitch. The first-base umpire disagreed, causing Leyland to howl with rage and Fox announcers to openly question the call. While it's debatable that Cruz did offer, Leyland didn't pull any punches when asked his opinion after the game.
"I do and still will always question the check swing on Cruz," he said. "I thought that was definitely a strike. I thought he definitely swung.'
Cruz would go on to walk, and Scherzer would issue one final walk before being pulled from the game. If Cruz strikes out, the inning may have unfolded a very different way. Recreating the inning around Cruz's whiff projects a score of 6-2 after the inning instead of 9-2. Factor in Detroit scoring two runs in the top of the fifth, and suddenly it's a 6-4 game and anyone's ballgame.
"I thought he went," Scherzer admitted, noting he hasn't seen the replay. "At the end of the day, it still came down to how I managed the rest of the inning and I didn't do a good job of keeping them off the bases. I made more mistakes than just that one."
He made a ton of mistakes, and for that, Detroit is going home earlier than it wanted to.
"It's hard right now," Scherzer admitted, struggling with being able to look ahead to next season. The Tigers will return much of the team, and while Scherzer notes that "we have a pretty darn good team," he just can't think ahead.
"This isn't a good moment. I know life goes on, but ... it's just ... it's tough."
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