CHICAGO -- Take your pick for your favorite Max Scherzer outing this season. Most folks will point to his 15-strikeout gem against the Pirates on May 20. Others will remind you about his eight scoreless innings, with 12 strikeouts, against the Rockies four weeks later.
Quietly, though, Wednesday's was one of Scherzer's better performances.
Scherzer made one mistake on Wednesday, a fourth-inning slider that caught too much of the plate before it was caught by Kevin Youkilis' home-run swing for a one-run White Sox lead. However, Scherzer did not give up the big inning to go with it. He came close, going to three full counts. Only Paul Konerko reached base out of it, hitting a two-out single before Scherzer stranded him by retiring Alex Rios.
Scherzer went to five full counts in his six innings, one big reason his pitch count climbed to 115 and his exit came one inning earlier than manager Jim Leyland would have liked.
Scherzer wasn't happy about going to full counts in the first place. He was happy to keep it at that.
"I think there were numerous times when it was 3-2 and I was still able to throw the changeup for a strike and collect an out in that situation," Scherzer said. "When I can do that for the team, that's usually when we get good results."
His two big full-count outs around Youkilis' home run both came on the changeup, a pitch he indicated he had tweaked a bit.
As good as Scherzer's pitching has been for the past few months -- he's now 10-1 with a 2.53 ERA in his last 14 starts, allowing just 75 hits over 92 1/3 innings with 113 strikeouts -- his September stretch is a different kind of effective. He has gone 19 innings since issuing his last walk, a third-inning pass to Dewayne Wise in Comerica Park Sept. 1. He hadn't gone back-to-back outings without a walk since July of last season, a 20 2/3-inning stretch with the All-Star break in between. He proved stingy with walks the following month but gave up too much damage on hits.
These days, hitters aren't producing much damage off him at all.
"When he throws over the plate, he's tough," White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski said, "and he's been doing that for a few months now. That's why his record is what it is and his strikeout numbers are what they are and everything is just there."
Strained right quad lands Raburn on disabled list
CHICAGO -- Ryan Raburn and his strained right quadriceps have been sent home to Florida. Whether he'll appear in a Tigers uniform again is anybody's guess.
With Raburn unable to play at all on Wednesday and apparently nowhere close to being healthy enough to do so in the coming days, the Tigers made a rare September move, placing him on the 15-day disabled list.
Manager Jim Leyland and head athletic trainer Kevin Rand both said that Raburn will begin a rehab program in Florida to try to get back into playing shape. If he's ready, he'll play rehab games for the Tigers' Instructional League team with the possibility of being ready for a season-ending run.
From a practical standpoint, though, the logistics argue against that. Though the Tigers backdated Raburn's stint to Tuesday, the day after his ill-fated start against the White Sox, he still won't be eligible to be activated until the final week of the season -- and that's if everything goes right.
The strained quad was Raburn's original injury, dating back to his Minor League rehab assignment at Triple-A Toledo. By playing through it, however, he apparently injured his right hip and tweaked his right hamstring, adding to his problems.
"There's no just sense sitting around up here," Leyland said. "This time of year, you're treating enough guys as it is, let alone somebody who can't play. He lives right there, so he can go over [to Lakeland] and rehab. If it gets right, he can get some at-bats and we'll see what happens. I don't know what else to say. He can't play."
The Tigers play seven of their final 10 games against the Royals, who had success pitting left-handers, such as starter Bruce Chen and reliever Tim Collins, against Detroit in a three-game sweep last month in Kansas City. However, Raburn is just 1-for-9 off Chen over the past two years.
If Raburn is shelved, the Tigers can replace him on the postseason roster with somebody who was on the 40-man roster, but not the 25-man roster, as of Aug. 31. Victor Martinez's injury also allows them that option, as does Daniel Schlereth's. Thus the Tigers could keep a September callup such as Danny Worth or Al Alburquerque. Avisail Garcia is already postseason-eligible, since he was called up before Sept. 1.
If Raburn's season is done, he'll finish with a .171 average, one home run, 14 doubles, 12 RBIs, 53 strikeouts and a .480 OPS. He's eligible for arbitration this winter, with his two-year, $3.4 million contract expiring, but the Tigers will have to decide how likely he is to make a turnaround before deciding whether to tender him a contract.
Garcia to get a chance playing left field
CHICAGO -- The Tigers left U.S. Cellular Field on Wednesday night with manager Jim Leyland talking about starting Delmon Young in left field, Avisail Garcia in right and Brennan Boesch at designated hitter. On Thursday he changed plans, and Garcia was scheduled to get his first start in left field as a professional before rains postponed the game.
Short-term, putting Garcia in left keeps Young at DH. It's a benefit for both defensive and offensive reasons, since it lessens the chances of aggravating the tight hamstring Young has quietly been playing through. Longer-term, though it's not a priority quite yet, it might be the first step toward finding a way to fit Garcia and fellow prospect Nick Castellanos in the same outfield someday soon.
Garcia came up through the Tigers system primarily as a right fielder, then moved to center at Double-A Erie at midseason when Castellanos moved to right. The Tigers called up Garcia at the end of August to play in right field against left-handed pitchers.
First-base coach Tom Brookens, who's in charge of outfield defense, has had Garcia working on throws from left field.
"I'm a believer that anybody that can play right field, can play left field," Brookens said. "There's no doubt that it's different. There's a little bit of adjustment."
On Thursday morning, Leyland talked on the phone with assistant general manager Al Avila, whose responsibilities include the farm system. The organizational opinion is that Garcia's athleticism should allow him to handle left just fine.
"Let me put it this way: I'd much [rather] put Garcia in left than move Boesch over to left for a game," Leyland said. "I think he'll be fine. Fly balls are fly balls."
Said Brookens: "He's got good instincts. He works at it."
Avila sporting a different kind of bruise
CHICAGO -- Alex Avila has a large patch of black and blue on the base of his left hand, the result of a foul tip he took on Wednesday night. But that isn't the main reason he was out of Thursday's starting lineup. Manager Jim Leyland opted for Gerald Laird against Chicago left-hander Chris Sale, though it mattered not after the game was postponed by rain.
Avila said that he could play once he gets treatment. Of course, he always says he can play.
"It's pretty sore today," Avila admitted before batting practice. "I'll try to get it loosened up a little bit."
Of all the various bumps and bruises Avila has had over the last couple of years as Detroit's regular catcher, this is a new one. He said he "messed up a little bit" and didn't flip his hand over to catch the pitch, leaving himself open to a deflection. Still, it's an unusual injury.