The Philadelphia Phillies have made almost every opposing starter look like an All-Star while struggling offensively this week.
That doesn't bode well considering they will face an actual one Saturday.
Max Scherzer seeks his major league-leading 15th victory as the Detroit Tigers attempt to hand the Phillies a season-worst seventh consecutive loss.
Scherzer (14-1, 3.14 ERA), who pitched a perfect opening inning for the AL in the All-Star game, came out of the break sharp Monday, allowing two solo homers and two other hits over eight innings in a 7-3 road victory over the Chicago White Sox. The right-hander won for the 20th time in his last 30 starts since Aug. 10, the most in the majors in that span.
"I was working ahead in the count, had four pitches going," Scherzer, who could become the first Tigers pitcher to start 15-1 dating back to at least 1919, told the team's official website. "I felt that made me effective and allowed me to have some quick innings. No walks - that's always a recipe for success."
Scherzer, making his first interleague start this year and first career appearance versus the Phillies, has had mixed results against NL opponents. He is 6-6 with a 3.79 ERA in 14 starts against the senior circuit but won both his home outings last year, striking out 27 in 15 innings in victories over Pittsburgh and Colorado.
The injury-ravaged Phillies (49-54) have plated only 10 runs during their losing streak, batting .208 with 48 strikeouts in 197 at-bats, and they've scored five times in their last five. Manager Charlie Manuel thinks the looming trade deadline is also contributing to his team's woes, noting, "We've got a lot of young, inexperienced players, and they get concerned about where they are going to be playing and who is going be traded."
Whatever the reasons, opposing starters have compiled a 1.36 ERA in the six contests, and the best pitcher in that group - NL All-Star starter Matt Harvey of the New York Mets - fanned 10 in seven innings of a 5-0 win Sunday.
Having a non-existent margin of error may not have mattered much to All-Star Cliff Lee, but the left-hander was scratched due to a stiff neck - fueling speculation the Phillies may deal him - and gives way to Raul Valdes (1-0, 7.59 ERA). The left-hander went 3-4 with a 3.10 ERA and 59 strikeouts in 66 2-3 innings over 12 starts for Triple-A Lehigh Valley before being recalled Tuesday, when he allowed one run and two hits in 1 1-3 innings in relief of a 4-1 loss at St. Louis.
Valdes, who will make his third career start and first since June 27, 2012, has never faced the Tigers.
He may catch a break if slugger Miguel Cabrera is sidelined for a fifth straight game due to a sore left hip flexor. The AL MVP took batting practice prior to Friday's 2-1 victory and may be available as a DH or pinch hitter, but the Tigers (57-45) continue to be cautious with the 2012 Triple Crown winner.
"Obviously, you'd rather lose Miguel Cabrera for two or three games than two or three weeks," trainer Kevin Rand told the team's official website. "He's feeling a lot better, but he still feels he needs another day or so. It's important for us to make sure that he's right before he comes back."
Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter should be available after missing Friday's win due to a sore Achilles he said occurred by wearing dress shoes that were too tight. He is 6 for 14 with three homers in his last four games.