From All-Star starter to postseason headliner — Max Scherzer is Jim Leyland’s pick again.
Detroit’s 21-game winner will start the AL division series opener Friday night at Oakland, with star Justin Verlander following in Game 2. Leyland announced the Tigers’ rotation Tuesday, putting an end to any speculation about who would start Game 1.
“I truly feel that I could start any one of my guys and I would feel comfortable,” Leyland said. “I think that the kind of year Scherzer’s had ... I’m sure somebody will find something wrong with this choice, but I think that’s kind of hard to argue.”
Scherzer (21-3) was baseball’s lone 20-game winner this year and started for the American League in the All-Star game, which Leyland managed. But Verlander (13-12) was the 2011 AL MVP and has been one of the top pitchers in the game over the last few seasons, so Leyland could have picked either.
“It’s awesome,” Scherzer said. “We’re going up against a great team, and I have a shot to go out there and pick up the win, first time. What more can you want?”
The Tigers won the AL Central for a third straight year, thanks to an exceptionally deep rotation. Anibal Sanchez, the AL’s ERA leader, won’t pitch until Game 3 against the Athletics. Doug Fister starts Game 4.
Leyland said relievers Bruce Rondon and Phil Coke will likely miss the series due to elbow problems.
Scherzer is a favorite to win his first Cy Young Award, and it’s not just because of his lofty win total. He finished fifth in the AL in ERA and second in strikeouts while holding opponents to a .198 average.
No wonder Verlander was deferential to his teammate after Leyland’s announcement.
“If it was me, I’d probably make the same decision,” Verlander said. “Max has had a magical season, and when a guy has a season like that and everything’s going right, why not ride it?”
Verlander was the Cy Young winner in 2011 and finished a close second last year to David Price. This season has been more of a struggle. His 3.46 ERA was his highest since 2008.
Verlander pitched six scoreless innings in each of his final two starts, and if he can provide more of the same in the playoffs, the Tigers should be dangerous.
Scherzer will face Bartolo Colon (18-6) in the opener. Colon was second to Sanchez in the ERA race.
Ethier’s role limited
Andre Ethier might be limited to pinch-hitting duties in the National League division series because of a left ankle injury, leaving the Los Angeles Dodgers undecided on whether to include the outfielder on the playoff roster. Ethier threw and hit but didn’t run during Tuesday’s workout at Dodger Stadium before the team departed for Atlanta.
Yost gets extension
The Kansas City Royals and manager Ned Yost agreed to a two-year contract extension after wrapping up an 86-76 season, the best finish for the franchise in 24 years. Yost’s contract was set to expire after the season, though both sides had expressed a desire for the manager to remain.
Around the leagues
Top Seattle Mariners pitching prospect Danny Hultzen underwent surgery on his left shoulder to clean up his labrum and repair a partial tear of his rotator cuff. … San Diego Padres third baseman Chase Headley had arthroscopic surgery on his left knee to repair a medial meniscus tear. … Toronto Blue Jays right-hander Josh Johnson had arthroscopic surgery to remove a bone spur in his elbow.