Walk sets up Scherzer's exit, Tigers' unraveling
Right-hander pulled after close pitch on ball four to rookie Bogaerts
BOSTON -- Tigers starter Max Scherzer threw 110 pitches on Saturday night in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series. The 110th pitch was a full-count changeup to Red Sox rookie Xander Bogaerts with one out and a runner at second in the seventh inning.
The pitch appeared to nip the low outside corner and Bogaerts did not swing at it. Scherzer and catcher Alex Avila thought it was strike three, but home-plate umpire Dan Iassonga thought otherwise.
"I thought it was a strike probably, but that pitch never gets called," Scherzer said. "The catcher has to reach across his body and the ball is moving out of the strike zone. You have to give him credit for taking that pitch. To have the composure not to be aggressive and expand the strike zone, you have to tip your cap to him."
"It was very close," Avila said. "I'm not sure how it looked on television, but I thought it might be a strike. Dan is a very good umpire and he told me he thought it was a little low."
That ended Scherzer's night and ended up being one of the pivotal moments of the game. He walked off the mound with a 2-1 lead but with two on and still only one out. Before the inning was over, the Red Sox had rallied to take the lead on a grand slam by Shane Victorino off of reliever Jose Veras, and Scherzer ended up as the losing pitcher in a 5-2 loss to the Red Sox, who advanced to the World Series with the win.
Scherzer won 21 games during the regular season, but the Tigers lost both of his starts in the ALCS. Both times, Scherzer left with a lead only to have the bullpen give up a game-changing grand slam. Scherzer pitched 13 1/3 innings in the two starts, allowing four runs on six hits and seven walks while striking out 21. But after getting two wins in the AL Divisional Series against the Athletics, he was shut out against the Red Sox.
"It's just disappointing," Scherzer said. "You work so hard from the offseason all the way through the season. Too come up short, it's frustrating when things don't go your way."
The Tigers pitching staff had a 2.77 ERA in the series and their starters set a postseason series record with 55 strikeouts. It still wasn't good enough.
"Normally, if you pitch the way we pitched in this series, you would probably think that you had won," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
In Scherzer's two starts, the Tigers bullpen allowed seven runs over 2 2/3 innings. Tigers pitchers allowed just 19 runs in the six games. But Scherzer also censured himself after Saturday's game for giving up five walks. He also hit one batter.
"They were patient, and I gave some at-bats away," Scherzer said. "They took some very good pitches, so you have to give them credit. They hit some mistakes, and I got away with some mistakes. If you walk guys and start giving free passes, when you put yourself in that position, you're going to pay for it. I have to do better."
Scherzer was scoreless through four innings, but the Red Sox took the lead against him in the fifth on a two-out double by Bogaerts and a single by Jacoby Ellsbury. The Tigers struck back on Victor Martinez's two-run single in the top of the sixth, and Scherzer responded with a shutdown inning.
Scherzer started the bottom of the sixth by hitting Victorino and walking Dustin Pedroia. But he kept the Tigers in front by getting David Ortiz on a flyout to left, striking out Victorino and getting Jarrod Saltalamacchia on a popup to short.
That was a huge jam to escape, but it went for naught because Scherzer ran into trouble against the bottom of the Red Sox order in the seventh. Jonny Gomes led off with a double and Stephen Drew struck out before Bogaerts drew the walk that led Leyland to go to the bullpen.
"It's baseball," Scherzer said. "You have the two best teams in the American League going back and forth. We just came up short. It's obviously frustrating. It doesn't take anything away from what the Red Sox accomplished."
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Postcards from Elysian Fields, and follow him on Twitter @Sullivan_Ranger. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.