If we entered the season with the knowledge that a Detroit Tigers right-hander was going to pitch his way into the history books, I believe most of us would have assumed his name would be Justin Verlander. As we should know by now, though, baseball is never that predictable. While Verlander has certainly pitched well, it's actually 29-year-old Max Scherzer who has joined elite company by winning his 12th straight decision to begin the 2013 season.
Scherzer reached the 12-0 mark on Friday night by holding the Tampa Bay Rays to three runs on four hits while striking out nine over seven solid innings. He also received help from the usual suspects on Detroit's offense. Miguel Cabrera went 4 for 4 with two home runs and three knocked in. Prince Fielder then applied the finishing touches on the 6-3 victory with a two-run big fly off Cesar Ramos in the eighth.
When Joaquin Benoit recorded the 27th out to earn his sixth save, Scherzer's name immediately became etched alongside that of Roger Clemens, who was the last pitcher to begin a season with 12 straight winning decisions. It's worth noting that Clemens only needed 13 starts to reach that mark, and would improve to 14-0 before taking his first loss. Scherzer needed 16 starts, but he still managed something that had never been done before.
According to ESPN Stats and Info (via Elias Sports), Scherzer is now the first pitcher in MLB history to go unbeaten in his first 16 starts of a season while also recording at least 120 strikeouts.
I think that helps cement his dominance and puts his record into a better light in spite of what Scherzer had to say about his own performance after the game.
''I'm pitching well, but the reason I'm 12-0 is because of my offense,'' he added. ''You got to see firsthand today the best player in the game hitting two home runs on three pitches and going 4 for 4. And Prince hits a bomb. It's the offense that set me up.''
Sure, Scherzer had a rough outing on Opening Day against the New York Yankees (four runs in five innings) and another against the Kansas City Royals (five runs in five innings) on April 24. In both cases, the offense rallied and rewarded him with the victory. He also had back-to-back starts in between those outings where he allowed one run in six and eight innings respectively and took no-decisions.
He could easily have a loss or two. He could easily have 14 wins. But the fact he's 12-0 doesn't feel empty or undeserving. Not even in today's game where the value of the win is questioned at every turn — with good reason in most cases. Scherzer's 12-0 is rock solid.