Scherzer, the prize acquisition for the Tigers in a trade that left them without two All-Stars, takes on the Kansas City Royals in his home state Wednesday night.
Detroit won 10 games last season when trailing after six innings. The Tigers opened this season with one such victory, scoring six runs in the seventh to beat Kansas City 8-4 on Monday.
Rookie Austin Jackson(notes) and Johnny Damon(notes) combined for three runs and three RBIs for Detroit. Damon was signed as a free agent from the Yankees to give some support atop the order for the 23-year-old Jackson, the new center fielder after All-Star Curtis Granderson(notes) was traded to the New York Yankees as part of a three-way deal in December.
Scherzer, a native of St. Louis, starred at Missouri before becoming a Diamondbacks first-round pick in 2006. He’s coming off his first full season as a starting pitcher, striking out 174 in 170 1-3 innings.
The right-hander won his only appearance against the Royals, allowing two runs in six innings of a 12-5 Arizona victory June 17.
If Scherzer falters, Detroit should feel confident going back to its bullpen after four relievers combined to pitch four scoreless innings Monday.
“I can’t feel any better right now,” Zumaya said. “Can’t feel any better.”
“We’ve got to get somebody to take the ball and give us what we need in the seventh and eighth innings,” manager Trey Hillman said. “It is our responsibility with the guys we have to get them over the hump as early as we can and as often as we can.”
With Gil Meche(notes) (shoulder) on the disabled list, Kansas City will send out Luke Hochevar(notes) (7-13, 6.55), who should be fine after taking a comebacker off his left ankle in a spring training game Friday night.
“No issues, no worries,” he said.
Hochevar, the No. 1 overall pick in 2007, has been underwhelming in his first two full seasons, going 13-25 with a 6.06 ERA. The right-hander lost his final three starts last season, posting a 13.50 ERA.
Hochevar, however, did have some bright spots, including an 80-pitch, complete-game win over Cincinnati on June 12. He’s 1-2 with a 6.87 ERA in three starts and one relief appearance against the Tigers.
Cleanup hitter Rick Ankiel(notes), signed as a free agent from St. Louis, went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts. He struggled through injuries last season, hitting .231 with 11 home runs and 38 RBIs in 122 games.