The Kansas City Royals have their longest winning streak in nearly two years. They'll have to get past one of baseball's best pitchers to extend it further.
Unbeaten Max Scherzer will take the mound for the Detroit Tigers in Kansas City on Tuesday night, looking to derail the Royals' run.Kansas City (29-32) won Monday's series opener 3-2 on the strength of a two-run triple by Salvador Perez. The Royals' run of six consecutive victories is their longest since they won seven in a row Sept. 10-17, 2011.With a 7-2 record in June, they are one shy of matching their win total from all of last month. Kansas City went 8-20 in May.Scherzer (8-0, 3.24 ERA) has been on quite a roll himself, posting a 1.86 ERA over his last four starts. He's 3-0 in that span, striking out 32 across 29 innings while allowing 12 hits."I'm showing consistency with four pitches and I feel like that's really what's allowing me to be effective and pitch deep into games and do all the little things well," Scherzer said after beating Tampa Bay on Thursday, yielding one run over seven innings in a 5-2 victory."I realize the league's probably going to make adjustments to me and I've got to be ready to still pitch my best when maybe I don't have my best stuff."The Royals' pitching also has been strong lately, recording a 1.44 ERA this month after posting a 4.33 mark in May. The Tigers (35-27) were held to seven hits Monday as they had a four-game win streak snapped.A two-run homer by Miguel Cabrera was the only damage against starter Jeremy Guthrie. Aaron Crow, Tim Collins, Kelvin Herrera and Greg Holland combined for 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief, with only Herrera yielding a hit."Just a phenomenal job of pitching on our part," manager Ned Yost said.Yost's starter Tuesday has been inconsistent, but Wade Davis (3-5, 5.66) is coming off one of his better showings. The right-hander went five innings, yielding four hits and three unearned runs in a 7-3 win over Minnesota on Thursday. The first batter he faced reached base on a throwing error, leading to all three runs.Davis is winless in his last four starts and eight of nine, with efficiency remaining a concern. He surpassed 100 pitches for the fifth straight start Thursday -- he's failed to get past the fifth inning in three of them -- and his average of 18.8 pitches per inning is one of the highest in baseball."That's kind of the way it's been for Wade," Yost said. "He finds ways to bend a little bit but never breaks, or seldom breaks, but always gets his pitch count up high. He gets himself into trouble and pitches himself out of it."Neither starter was very good pitching against each other April 24, though Scherzer emerged victorious in a 7-5 win. Scherzer gave up a season-high five runs in five innings while Davis allowed seven runs -- three earned -- and eight hits in 3 2/3 innings.Cabrera, whose homer Monday was his 18th of the year, is 4 for 12 with two home runs versus Davis.Alex Gordon is 8 for 20 against Scherzer, while Mike Moustakas is 1 for 17.Scherzer is 3-0 with a 3.67 ERA in his last five starts against the Royals.
Entering Tuesday's start, you can make the case that Max Scherzer has been the best pitcher in baseball this season. He's 8-0, 3.24 ERA with an astounding 100 strikeouts in 83 1/3 IP. Some notes to consider:
¿ He's increased his strikeout rate each of the last 3 seasons, from 20.9% in 2011 to 29.4% last season to 31.6% this season.
¿ He's reduced the rate at which he's allowing HR, from 3.8% of plate appearances in 2011 to 2.0% this season.
¿ He's shown increasingly better command of his fastball, throwing it in the strike zone 58% of the time this season compared to 52.5% back in 2010. Consequently, his BA and OPS against his fastball have decreased over the last 3 seasons (.294/.885 to .253/.768 to .179/.593).
¿ His slider has become one of the great put-away pitches in all of baseball, generating a 45.5% swing-and-miss rate, up from 37.4% 2 years ago.