The Detroit Tigers (20-11) will turn to Cy Young Award-winner Max Scherzer to try to end a mini two-game skid on Saturday afternoon. Scherzer will battle a Minnesota Twins (16-18) lineup that he dominated in 2013, winning all three starts while surrendering just four runs in 20 1/3 innings. The electric righty struck out 26 Twins and allowed just 11 hits in those three games.
TV: 1:08 p.m. ET, FSN North (Minnesota), FSN Detroit
Scherzer has been the anchor for the best rotation in the American League through 31 games. Detroit starters rank first in the AL with a 2.76 ERA and second with a .227 opponent batting average. The Tigers have received the second-most quality starts in the league (20) despite having played the fewest number of games.
Scherzer continues to pace the Tigers with a 1.72 ERA and 0.96 WHIP, which are both the best in the AL. Scherzer will go for his seventh quality start in eight starts on Saturday.
Opposite Scherzer will be 26-year-old Kyle Gibson, who hopes to build off of what teammate Phil Hughes did to the Tigers on Friday night. Hughes held Detroit scoreless through seven innings and extended his streak to 13 straight perfect innings against the Tigers. The first-year Twin virtually abandoned his secondary pitches and dominated Detroit hitters with the four-seam and two-seam fastballs.
The only Tiger that wasn't fooled by Hughes was Austin Jackson, who singled twice off of Hughes before doubling and scoring the Tigers' only run of the game in the ninth inning against closer Glen Perkins. Jackson extended his hitting streak to seven games and improved his average to .305 on the season. Friday marked the seventh multi-hit game of the season for the 27-year-old, who also stole his fifth base in the sixth inning.
Jackson and the Tigers will get their first look at Gibson on Saturday, as the youngster makes just his 16 Major League appearance. Gibson is off to a strong start in 2014 after posting a 6.53 ERA in 10 starts during the late months of last season. In his last outing Gibson allowed two hits in seven shutout innings against the Cleveland Indians. The Twins were relieved to see their young righty bounce back from two starts in which he surrendered a combined 19 hits and 12 earned runs.
Much like Hughes did on Friday night, the Tigers can expect Gibson to pitch to contact. In 16 career starts, Gibson has never recorded more than five strikeouts in a game, averaging around 4.7 strikeouts per nine innings. In 2014, his four strikeouts per nine innings is the lowest of any pitcher in baseball.
Detroit will also have to practice something that was missing from its arsenal on Friday: Patience. The Tigers failed to draw a walk in the 2-1 loss to the Twins, but have an opportunity to improve on that mark Saturday against Gibson, the only MLB pitcher with a strikeout-to-walk rate lower than one (0.94).
For the Minnesota offense, history shows that reaching base against Scherzer will be an uphill battle. Seven of the Twins in the starting lineup on Saturday have combined for two lifetime hits off of Scherzer. Brian Dozier and Aaron Hicks are a combined 0-13 with nine strikeouts against the defending Cy Young winner.
Detroit was looks to build on its four-game lead in the AL Central Saturday after being the only team in the division to lose on Friday.