Max Scherzer spent the final weeks of the regular season dealing with injuries, but Jim Leyland has proclaimed that his right-hander is healthy and ready to go.
The Detroit Tigers manager is hoping to see another strong outing from Scherzer as his team tries again to close out the Oakland Athletics in Game 4 of their American League Division Series Wednesday (6:30 p.m. PT).
Scherzer lasted only two innings in his previous matchup with Oakland on Sept. 18 because of fatigue in his right shoulder.
'He's a hundred per cent. I expect him to be full bore, all out and the game will dictate how long he pitches.' — Tigers manager Jim Leyland on Game 3 starter Max Scherzer
He went five innings in a loss to Minnesota five days later, but missed his next scheduled start because of that ailment.
Scherzer also hurt his right ankle while celebrating Detroit's AL Central title on Oct. 1 but managed to pitch four scoreless innings two days later in Kansas City.
"He feels great," Leyland said. "He's very healthy. He's a hundred per cent. He threw about 75, 80 pitches over in Kansas City. So we'll monitor him close. But I expect him to be full bore, all out and the game will dictate how long he pitches."
Scherzer has allowed two runs or fewer in nine of his last 10 outings, going 6-1 with a 1.65 earned-run average over that stretch. He also gave up two runs and five hits while striking out nine over 6 1/3 innings during a 10-6 win in Oakland on May 10.
Entering his fourth post-season start, Scherzer (16-7, 3.74 ERA) finished the regular season with career highs in wins and strikeouts, with his 231 ranking second in the majors to teammate Justin Verlander.
He pitched six scoreless innings during his post-season debut last year in a 5-3 win at Yankee Stadium, but wasn't as sharp in the AL Championship Series, getting tagged for six runs over 2 1/3 innings in a 15-5 drubbing that gave Texas the pennant in Game 6.
A's turn to rookie
Oakland manager Bob Melvin is hoping rookie right-hander A.J. Griffin can have a similar playoff debut and help the A's force a deciding Game 5. Griffin was taken in the 13th round of the 2010 draft and was pitching in the Class-A California League playoffs last September.
"I just try to go out there and just have fun and be loose, not put too much pressure on yourself," Griffin said. "It's still a game. You go out there and just try to enjoy it."
After losing the first two in Detroit, Oakland limited the Tigers to four hits in a 2-0 victory Tuesday. Yoenis Cespedes had an RBI single in the first inning and Seth Smith added a solo homer in the fifth.
Cespedes was also one of three A's players to rob Detroit slugger Prince Fielder of potential hits, making a diving catch in left in the seventh. Center fielder Coco Crisp took away a home run in the second and shortstop Stephen Drew prevented him from getting a single in the fourth.
"It's frustrating," Fielder said. "But it's a good team you're playing. They're going to make those plays. That's why they're here." Fielder, who signed a nine-year, $214 million US deal before this season, is 1-for-12 in the series but was one of three players to homer off Griffin in a 12-2 rout at Comerica Park on Sept. 18. Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta were the others.
That loss was the only one in 15 major league starts for Griffin, who was 7-1 with a 3.06 ERA. He gave up five runs and eight hits over 4 2/3 innings in that matchup with the Tigers, part of a mixed showing down the stretch.
Griffin allowed one run and four hits over 5 2/3 innings in an 8-2 win over Seattle on Sept. 28, but his performance last Wednesday created a hurdle for the A's as they completed their rally for the AL West title. He gave up five runs and seven hits in 2 2/3 innings against Texas before Oakland rallied for a 12-5 win and its first division championship in six years.
"What we try to stress with him is focus on the good things that have happened, not the couple of tough starts that [he's] had," Melvin said. "[He's] accomplished a lot up to this point and pitched a lot of really good games and know that your team feels very good about you on the mound."
The A's have won seven of Griffin's eight home starts, and he left in the second inning with an injury in the only one they lost.