became the first pitcher to start a season 12-0 since Roger Clemens in 1986. (Chris O'Meara/AP)
Max Scherzer became the first pitcher since Roger Clemens in 1986 to win twelve games before his first loss, improving to 12-0 in a 6-3 win over the Rays on Friday night. Scherzer turned in his eighth straight quality start, allowing just three runs over seven innings and striking out nine, and got all the runs he needed from his team's two star sluggers, Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder.
Cabrera homered in his first two at-bats as part of a 4-for-4 night in which he later singled and doubled, but it was Fielder's home run in the eighth that was most impressive. Fielder greeted Rays reliever Cesar Ramos by destroying a 1-0 hanging curveball that hit one of Tropicana Fields' catwalks on the way down, as seen in this GIF:
Fielder also doubled in the game. He and Cabrera combined for six of the Tigers' eight hits, all of their extra-base hits, five of their six runs scored, and all of their runs batted in (Fielder scored without an RBI on a wild pitch in the fourth).
As for Scherzer, he is now 8-0 with a 2.25 ERA over his last eight starts, all of which have been quality, and though the Tigers offense has indeed picked him up a few times this season, he has only allowed as many as five runs twice, and never allowed more in a start this season. At worst, his record should probably be something like 11-3, as every one of his 11 quality starts has bettered the minimum definition (6 IP, 3 ER) by at least one inning or one run (not needing to fudge with earned runs), and one of the four starts in which he allowed four or more runs saw him allow exactly four in eight innings while not allowing a walk or a home run and striking out seven.
As I mentioned in my recent post on the Tigers' fielding woes, Scherzer's luck has been in greater evidence with regard to balls in play on the road than wins and losses. That continued Friday night as the Rays put 14 balls in play, only two of which dropped for hits (they also hit two home runs, which don't count as "in play"), which translates to a .143 BABIP for the game.
Clemens got to 14-0 before suffering his first loss in his Cy Young and MVP-winning season of 1986. Scherzer is now just two wins from matching that season-opening streak.