DETROIT (AP) - Max Scherzer and the Detroit Tigers still have plenty of work to do if they want to win a second straight AL Central title.
This weekend, though, they took two big steps in the right direction.
One day after Doug Fister returned from the disabled list to pitch shutout ball, the inconsistent Scherzer struck out 12 in eight dominant innings as Detroit beat the staggering Colorado Rockies 5-0 on Sunday.
``This was extremely important for me,' Scherzer said. ``It was especially big to go eight, because we've got a lot of tired arms in our bullpen.'
Detroit rookie Quintin Berry had a career-high five hits, while Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera each had an RBI double. Gerald Laird added three hits to help the Tigers win their third straight series, all against National League teams.
``You never think about going 5 for 5,' said Berry, who had never gotten four hits in a game before, much less five. ``It is just something that happens. I was getting a lot of pitches to hit with Austin (Jackson) on base, because no one is going to fool around with him.'
Rockies starter Jeremy Guthrie was pulled after a 53-minute rain delay in the fourth. Colorado has lost 10 of 11.
The Rockies were missing slugger Carlos Gonzalez, scratched moments before the first pitch with what was announced as a sore right hamstring. He was replaced in the lineup by Dexter Fowler, who struck out in his first three at_bats, all with runners on base.
``It actually turned out to be a strained right knee,' Colorado manager Jim Tracy said. ``He did it running sprints to get ready for the game. They had already played the national anthem and the umpires were on the field when our assistant trainer told me that CarGo couldn't play. Right now, it is day to day. We'll have to see.'
The game was delayed by rain in the top of the fourth, but Scherzer stayed on the mound to finish that inning and four more.
``I was definitely going back out there,' Scherzer said. ``There would have been chairs thrown if I didn't.'
Scherzer (6-4) fanned every Rockies starter other than Marco Scutaro in his third double-digit strikeout performance of the season. He gave up seven hits and didn't walk a batter while throwing 122 pitches.
``He really overmatched them, to be honest,' Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. ``He attacked the strike zone with outstanding stuff. He was throwing 97-98 (mph) with a good slider, changeup and command of the strike zone.'
Brayan Villarreal finished up with one strikeout in a hitless ninth.
Scherzer has struck out at least nine batters six times this season, most in the majors.
``He came out better after the rain delay. His fastball had more life and his slider and changeup were both working more effectively,' Tracy said. ``That's the performance of a warrior and a stud.'
Guthrie (3-6) allowed four runs - three earned - on eight hits and two walks.
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead on Laird's RBI double in the second, then added two more runs in the third.
Berry singled after Guthrie misplayed a foul pop for an error, then took second on a balk. Miguel Cabrera walked and Fielder followed with an RBI double. Brennan Boesch flied out but Jhonny Peralta was intentionally walked and Ramon Santiago made it 4-0 with a two-run single.
``Laird hit an 0-2 pitch in the second, and then Jeremy calls for the popped-up bunt from the mound and then hesitates at the last second and doesn't get it,' Tracy said. ``Then allows another 0-2 hit, and then he balks. I think it is fair to ask about his focus at that point.'
Guthrie would have been happy to keep pitching after the rain delay, but didn't get the chance.
``I told them that I wouldn't have any problem pitching after the rain,' he said. ``They made a decision based on my performance, rather than the delay. I just wasn't pitching well enough to go back out there.'
Cabrera capped the scoring with an RBI double in the sixth.
NOTES: Guthrie held the Tigers scoreless in his previous two starts against them, both in 2010. He went 2-0, allowing seven hits in 15 innings. ... Scherzer is the first Tigers starter with six nine-strikeout games in Detroit's first 66 games since Hal Newhouser in 1946. ... The Tigers announced before the game that rookie Jacob Turner will start Thursday's series finale against the Cardinals.
The Associated Press News Service
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