The Boston Red Sox had their hands full against the AL's ERA leader in Game 1 of the championship series, and things aren't about to get any easier against the league's Cy Young favorite.
The Detroit Tigers send Max Scherzer to the mound opposite fellow All-Star Clay Buchholz as this best-of-seven set continues Sunday night at Fenway Park.
Anibal Sanchez and four relievers came within two outs of the first combined no-hitter in postseason history and Detroit hung on for a 1-0 win Saturday. Daniel Nava's clean single to center field was the only hit for Boston, which struck out 17 times.
Jhonny Peralta went 3 for 4 and drove in the game's only run while Sanchez overcame a season-high six walks and struck out 12 over six innings, including a record-tying four in the first.
"When you watch somebody, (Justin) Verlander, Sanchez, you can see how they attack the hitters, they might do something different that you do," Scherzer said. "When you can see them being successful in those situations, there's times you want to emulate that and take that and add it to your game. That's the benefit of being on this team."
Scherzer (2-0, 3.00 ERA) is set to make his first appearance since pitching two innings of relief in Tuesday's 8-6 win over Oakland in Game 4 of the AL division series. The right-hander, who surrendered one run, three hits and two walks during that stressful 47-pitch performance, is feeling good heading into Sunday's showdown.
"I'm on normal rest, pitching Game 2, so I'm fully ready to go," said Scherzer, who went 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA during the regular season. "Arm feels good. My relief appearance was just needed."
Scherzer yielded two runs and struck out 11 in seven innings to beat Oakland 3-2 in Game 1 of the ALDS, improving to 2-0 with a 2.22 ERA in his last four postseason starts.
"In sports, guys get on a roll from time to time," manager Jim Leyland said. "And he's been (on) a positive roll. He comes in relief the other day and ends up getting the win. ... Sometimes guys get on a roll. And that's the type of year he's had."
In eight career starts against the Red Sox, Scherzer is 2-4 with a 7.02 ERA - his highest against any team - but he's posted a 2.57 mark in splitting two games this season.
"They're just a great team," he said. "They can grind AB's out, they don't chase a lot. They foul off pitches. It all comes down to attacking the hitters and making sure I'm working ahead in count."
David Ortiz has hit Scherzer hard, going 7 for 15 with three homers and a double. Jacoby Ellsbury and Jarrod Saltalamacchia are a combined 10 for 21, each taking him deep once.
Buchholz (0-0, 4.50) also proved nearly unbeatable during the regular season, going 12-1 with a 1.74 ERA over 16 starts. The right-hander, who missed three months with a neck injury, gave up three runs over six innings in Monday's 5-4 walkoff loss at Tampa Bay in Game 3 of the ALDS.
"He's able to do a lot of different things with all of his pitches. That's what makes him so effective," Scherzer said of Buchholz. "He's going to bring his A stuff, so I'm going to have to match him."
Buchholz is 2-0 with a 3.20 ERA in his last six matchups against the Tigers, last facing them in 2012. He's limited Torii Hunter to three hits in 21 at_bats in their matchups, and Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez are a combined 1 for 12.
While Miguel Cabrera is just 5 for 21, Buchholz knows he needs to be careful against one of baseball's best hitters.
"He always finds a way to extend an at-bat and make you feel really uncomfortable in big situations while you're throwing to him," said Buchholz, who owns a 1.20 ERA in four career starts against the Tigers at Fenway. "He's that guy, I think you would get the same answer from any starting pitcher in the league.
"They have a lot of guys up and down the lineup that can hurt you."
Peralta has been especially hot, going 8 for 15 with a homer, three doubles and six RBIs in the last four postseason games.
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