OAKLAND, Calif. — After watching Max Scherzer breeze through a spectacular playoff opener, Detroit closer Joaquin Benoit began talking big.
“We took the first step,” Benoit said. “It’s great. I feel like we’re already on the verge of the World Series again.”
The Tigers sure looked ready for another special October run, using a dominant performance by Scherzer to beat the Oakland Athletics 3-2 in the AL division series on Friday night.
Scherzer overpowered the A’s with his blazing fastball, and then baffled them with his off-speed stuff. The right-hander struck out 11 over seven innings as the Tigers grabbed Game 1 of this playoff rematch from 2012.
Miguel Cabrera helped stake Detroit to an early lead before the banged-up slugger left in the eighth as a precaution.
“We won the game, I think that’s the more important thing right now,” Cabrera said. “For us, it’s not an issue. It’s no time to complain, no time to worry.”
The only guy who could get anything going against Scherzer was Yoenis Cespedes — and that wasn’t enough the way the likely Cy Young Award winner was pitching.
The A’s struck out 16 times in all, a franchise record in a postseason game.
“Today we noticed that my fastball seemed pretty good and my changeup seemed pretty good. That’s why I thought I was able to get into a groove and pitch deep into the game because of those two pitches,” Scherzer said. “I thought I did a good job of attacking the zone and throwing first-pitch strikes, which I pride myself in.”
Cabrera, hindered by a groin strain late in a season of injuries for last year’s Triple Crown winner, didn’t have to overextend himself on defense thanks to Scherzer’s 118-pitch gem. But he did look uncomfortable running out a grounder in the eighth.
“I wasn’t very comfortable taking him out of a one-run game, but there was a little bit more to it,” manager Jim Leyland said.
Cabrera and Alex Avila each hit first-inning RBI singles against 40-year-old All-Star Bartolo Colon, whose winless stretch against the Tigers extended to 10½ years.
Scherzer retired 16 of his first 18 batters and was nearly untouchable before Cespedes hit a two-run drive in the seventh for his first career playoff home run. The strikeouts were his most in seven postseason starts.