After an overpowering display last weekend, Max Scherzer is hoping he's put his inconsistency behind him.
Considering how erratic he's been against the Minnesota Twins, it might be too soon to say.
Scherzer looks to build on his 15-strikeout performance as the Detroit Tigers continue a three-game set with the AL-worst Twins on Saturday afternoon at Target Field.
While Scherzer (3-3, 5.73 ERA) has shown flashes of his tremendous potential throughout the year, he's also been knocked around quite a bit.
Five days after surrendering six runs over four-plus innings on the road against the White Sox, Scherzer was at his best Sunday. He yielded a pair of runs and four hits while striking out a career high over seven innings in a 4-3 win over Pittsburgh.
"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 (Sunday) was no different."
The right-hander became just the second player to record 15 swinging strikeouts since 1988, and has now yielded two runs or fewer in three of four outings.
"I've worked really hard over the past two or three weeks on identifying this," he told MLB.com. " ... I want to be somebody on this team that can step up and help this team win. I know I'm capable of it on a consistent basis."
Scherzer has been anything but against the Twins (15-30), going 1-1 with a 6.45 ERA over six starts in the series. While he's allowed two runs or fewer in three of those outings, he's given up a combined 23 - all earned - over 14 2-3 innings in the other three, including a career-worst 10 during a 10-4 road loss May 3, 2010.
Justin Morneau is 3 for 5 with a pair of homers against Scherzer. Joe Mauer and Josh Willingham have also taken him deep, going a combined 7 for 18.
Scherzer will try to lead the Tigers (21-24) to back-to-back victories for the first time since a four-game winning streak April 15-18. Detroit snapped a three-game skid Friday, beating Minnesota 10-6 behind a 9-for-16 effort with runners in scoring position.
Alex Avila went 2 for 4 with two runs scored and three RBIs while Prince Fielder, Delmon Young and Brennan Boesch - the Tigers' 4-5-6 hitters - each collected three hits.
"This is our team," manager Jim Leyland said. "This is what we've got. That's a little bit more what we're supposed to look like. Hopefully it gets contagious and we get on a little roll."
The Twins, meanwhile, suffered their third straight loss while going just 3 for 16 with men on second and third.
Minnesota gives the ball to Carl Pavano (2-3, 4.91), who was originally scheduled to pitch Thursday before getting pushed back due to a lingering strained right shoulder.
The right-hander, though, is coming off one of his better efforts of the season. Pavano gave up two runs, five hits and struck out six in as many innings during last Saturday's 5-4, 11-inning win at Milwaukee.
"It's always a work in progress, but I thought I was definitely stronger," Pavano said following his 300th big league appearance. "Everything is moving in the right direction."
Pavano, who compiled a 1.48 ERA while winning each of his first four starts against the Tigers from May-August 2009, has since gone 1-4 with a 6.00 ERA in his last eight. Avila is 6 for 16 and has taken Pavano deep twice while Fielder is 5 for 11 with a homer.
- Max Scherzer