The good news for the Detroit Tigers on Sunday was that Max Scherzer appears to be healthy.
The bad news was it may not matter unless the team can quit finding new and innovative ways to lose games.
A day Detroit entered knowing it could take first place by sweeping a doubleheader from Minnesota ended with the Twins instead sweeping the punchless Tigers, 10-4 in the opener and 2-1 in a 10-inning second game.
While the Tigers lost two of three over the weekend against the Twins, the first-place Chicago White Sox dropped all three of their games to the Los Angeles Angels. That leaves Detroit one game behind in the AL Central race with 10 to play.
Scherzer pitched five shutout innings in the first game -- with a diminished but still effective fastball -- before weakening in the sixth and watching those who came after him fail to stop the waterfall and the defense continue to fail to rise to the occasion.
Scherzer had left his previous start after two innings due to shoulder fatigue.
In the nightcap, rookie Drew Smyly dodged some trouble brought on by rustiness -- he hadn't started since Aug. 25 -- and the only run he gave up in 4 2/3 innings was unearned. He will return to the bullpen and could be a long-relief factor in the last 10 games.
"I'm surprised we only got one run in the second game," manager Jim Leyland said. "I thought we'd hit more.
"The problem was we didn't score enough runs. We just aren't scoring enough runs right now."
Ben Revere opened the sixth off Scherzer in the first game by hitting a 3-1 fastball to deep left-center. It would have been a great catch had Andy Dirks made it, but the Detroit left fielder, the ball and the wall arrived simultaneously, and it want for a triple.
Joe Mauer hit a nubber to second that went for an RBI single. Again, tough play, but if Omar Infante's rushed throw had been a tad higher instead of in the dirt, Mauer would have been out. Scherzer said he made a bad pitch to Josh Willingham, who hit it into the left field corner for a double.
"I didn't expect that extra zip," Scherzer said, "but at the same time, I didn't need it. I hadn't been working out. Now I'll be on my regular program. I expected to be pain-free, and that's what happened."
Even Leyland got a sardonic chuckle out of reliever Brayan Villarreal's gaffe in the five-run sixth during the opener.
The reliever struck out Eduardo Escobar with the bases loaded and no outs, but the third strike was a wild pitch. Escobar began running to first, Gerald Laird retrieved the ball in time and threw to Villarreal, but the reliever just touched home plate, and the runner was thus able to score. Escobar was out automatically without a throw.
"In two days, I've seen two plays I haven't seen before in my 49 years in baseball," Leyland said. "(Villarreal) is probably not an expert on the rulebook. He saw the guy take off for first and thought he had a force at the plate."
Less-than-perfect fielding popped up in the second game, too.
A walk and single began the fifth against Smyly, who compounded his problems by picking up a sacrifice bunt attempt and throwing just wide enough so that Ramon Santiago had to come off the bag to catch it. Runner safe; bases loaded.
The Tigers got a forceout at the plate, then Al Alburquerque relieved. Miguel Cabrera threw out a runner at the plate, but catcher Alex Avila's throw to first base sailed high and into right field, allowing an unearned run to score.
It seems as if nearly every Detroit loss is complicated by the "almosts."
It's why the Tigers are almost in first place, instead of in first place.