Tigers pitcher nearly ties team strikeout record

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Tigers pitcher nearly ties team strikeout record

From Comcast SportsNet
DETROIT (AP) -- Max Scherzer headed off the mound and toward the dugout, where manager Jim Leyland was waiting to offer a congratulatory handshake. After 15 strikeouts in seven innings, Scherzer's day was done, and the only question was whether the Detroit right-hander's fine effort would go to waste. "We're in this business to win," Scherzer said. And win the Tigers did. Alex Avila's tiebreaking, two-run single highlighted a three-run seventh that sent Detroit to a 4-3 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates on Sunday. Scherzer's 15 strikeouts were the most by a Tigers pitcher in 40 years, and his teammates wiped out a 2-1 deficit to get him the victory. Mickey Lolich had 15 strikeouts for the Tigers against Boston on Oct. 2, 1972, and set the club record of 16 in 1969, doing it twice in less than three weeks. Scherzer's 15 strikeouts were the most by a major league pitcher this year. Miami's Anibal Sanchez had 14 against Arizona on April 28. "We've wasted a few good performances this year already," Avila said. "Hopefully, that will kind of get us on a roll a little bit." Detroit trails first-place Cleveland by three games in the AL Central. Scherzer (3-3) threw 115 pitches. He allowed four hits, including two solo homers, and a walk. Avila's hit made it 4-2. Pittsburgh scored a run in the ninth off Joaquin Benoit, but he held on for his first save this season. Detroit closer Jose Valverde has a strained back. Kevin Correia (1-5) allowed three runs and four hits in six-plus innings. Scherzer gave up seven runs in 2 2-3 innings in his first start of the season, and although he's been better since then, he entered Sunday's game with a 6.26 ERA. He was locked in from the start, throwing his first 10 pitches for strikes before finally missing the zone against Pedro Alvarez, the first hitter of the second. Scherzer got Alvarez anyway for his third strikeout of the day. "Even when I've struggled, I've always believed the next time I go out there that I'm going to have a great start, no matter what," Scherzer said. "That's always been my belief ever since I've been in the big leagues, and today was no different." All 15 of Scherzer's strikeouts were swinging. The only other pitcher since 1988 to strike out at least 15 -- all swinging -- in a game was Houston's Mike Scott, who fanned 15 Cincinnati Reds on June 8, 1990, according to STATS LLC. "My changeup was really working well today. I was able to throw it to both lefties and righties, and I was able to generate swing-and-misses out of it," Scherzer said. "I was able to throw it for a strike and throw it just underneath the zone to help generate some swing-and-miss strikeouts." Scherzer had struck out five straight -- and 10 for the game -- when Rod Barajas homered with one out in the fifth to give the Pirates a 1-0 lead. Jhonny Peralta answered with a solo shot in the bottom half. Neil Walker hit a 407-foot homer in the sixth, and Scherzer's pitch count began creeping up, precluding a run at the big league record of 20 strikeouts for a nine-inning game. Scherzer was actually on the hook for a loss when Leyland offered his handshake after the top of the seventh, the signal that a reliever would be entering in the eighth. But Prince Fielder led off the bottom of the seventh with a blooper to left that dropped between shortstop Clint Barmes and left fielder Nate McLouth. Barmes had a long way to run because the infield was shifted around to the right, and when the ball hit the ground, it bounced weirdly up off him into foul territory, enabling Fielder to reach second with a double. Delmon Young followed with a tying single, and Tony Watson relieved Correia. Peralta drew a walk one out later, and a passed ball by Barajas allowed the runners to move up to second and third. The Pirates brought the infield in, but Avila's base hit up the middle foiled that strategy and made it 4-2. Detroit was without center fielder Austin Jackson (abdominal strain) and Valverde, but the Tigers ended up taking two of three from Pittsburgh. Scherzer and Justin Verlander bookended the series with brilliant pitching performances. Verlander threw a one-hit shutout Friday night, striking out 12 and giving up only a ninth-inning single to Josh Harrison. The Pirates struck out 17 times Sunday and 41 times in the series. NOTES: Detroit's Brennan Boesch had his 12-game hitting streak snapped. ... Pittsburgh dropped to 19-9 when scoring at least two runs. ... The Tigers are off Monday. The Pirates return home and will send LHP Erik Bedard (2-5) to the mound against Johan Santana (1-2) of the New York Mets.

Spooner, coming to life with Bruins, feels Julien 'just didn't really trust me'

Spooner, coming to life with Bruins, feels Julien 'just didn't really trust me'

BRIGHTON -- The Bruins' third line has been reborn under interim coach Bruce Cassidy, and the players are now openly admitting they desperately needed a change.

Claude Julien never trusted Frank Vatrano, Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes enough defensively to play them together, but this line has blossomed under Cassidy: Six goals, 15 points and a plus-11 in seven games. They’ve survived in the defensive zone by rarely playing there. Instead, they push the pace, make plays to keep the puck out of the D-zone and, most importantly, keep producing the secondary offense that wasn’t there in the first 55 games of the season. 

No one has been freed from the shackles more than Spooner, who is back playing his natural center position after being forced to play left wing under Julien. The 25-year-old said Tuesday that getting a clean slate with a new coach has been extremely beneficial to him, and that perhaps he didn't always love playing for the guy now minding the bench in Montreal. 

“I felt like the last coach ... he just didn’t really trust me,” said Spooner, who has two goals and six points along with a plus-1 rating in seven games post-Julien. “It might've been kind of on me not really playing to the potential that I have, but at the same time . . . I just don’t think that he really liked me as a player. It’s kind of in the past now. It’s just a part of the game. It’s up to me to just go out there and just play, and not have that stuff in the back of my mind. 

“I just kind of have to go out there and believe in myself and I think at times I wasn’t really going out there and doing that. Maybe that’s something to learn. This sport has ups and downs, and I’ve had my downs. You learn that you can just sort of push through it. If you do that then things can be good.”

Spooner has 10 goals and 33 points along with a minus-3 this season, and could potentially surpass last year's numbers (13-36-49) in his second full season. 

Most felt that the speedy, skilled Spooner would be one of the big beneficiaries of the move from Julien to Cassidy, and now he’s showing that with a new lease on life in Boston. 

Isaiah Thomas' recent shooting woes mirror those of Celtics

Isaiah Thomas' recent shooting woes mirror those of Celtics

BOSTON – As Isaiah Thomas walked off the TD Garden floor Monday night in the fourth quarter of the Celtics' 114-98 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, the All-Star guard’s franchise streak of 43 games with 20 or more points scored was about to end.
 
Credit the Hawks, whose defense made life miserable for Thomas most of the game, limiting him to 4-for-21 shooting (19 percent) which stands as the worst shooting night for Thomas as Celtic when he has taken at least 10 shots from the field.
 
Thomas chalks up his struggles Monday as just one of those bad nights that comes from time to time in an 82-game season, but it’s part of what has been a stretch of inefficient shooting games for him.
 
And it’s not a coincidence that the Celtics (38-22) have lost three of their past four at the same time Thomas finds himself in one of his worst four-game stretches for shooting the ball this season.
 
In fact, Thomas has shot just 35.4 percent from the field in Boston’s past four games. In that span, he has made less than 45 percent of his shots in each game, which is only the second time this season he has had a four-game stretch like that.
 
And while defenses certainly give him more attention than any other Celtic, he’s still getting to the spots he wants to get to while taking the shots that are best for him.
 
The only difference of late, is that more shots are off the mark than previously.
 
“I missed a lot of shots in the paint. I got where I wanted to,” Thomas said. “That wasn’t just me; that was our team. We missed a lot of shots we normally make.”
 
Which is why there’s no sense of panic or heightened concern on the part of the Celtics heading into their game Wednesday night against the defending NBA champion Cleveland Cavaliers.
 
Boston rookie Jaylen Brown was quick to credit Atlanta for doing a good job defensively against the Celtics.
 
But he too recognized that at times they were their own worst enemy with all of the blown opportunities.
 
“We missed a bunch of easy shots and I think that is just focus,” Brown said. “We’re not going to hit every shot every game, but I do expect us to play a little bit better than what we did and I think we’re more capable of being a bit more locked in. It happens; you just got to forget about it and bounce back Wednesday against Cleveland.”