Out of sync early, Scherzer can't limit damage
Lack of command catches up to Tigers starter in nine-run third
ARLINGTON -- To say Max Scherzer would prefer to forget the third inning of Game 6 of the American League Championship on Saturday is probably putting it mildly.
Charged with six of the Rangers' nine runs in the third frame, Scherzer took the loss in the Tigers' 15-5 season-ending loss.
"It's a tough pill to swallow when you want to come up huge for your team and be in this type of situation with the World Series on the line, and not pitch to your ability," Scherzer said.
From the outset, the right-hander's command didn't seem especially sharp, but he managed to evade trouble until his control completely deserted him in the third.
"I felt pretty good," Scherzer said. "I came out, the first inning was a little up in the zone. Leading off the game, I was 3-0, but able to battle back and get an out. Even in the second inning, I started to get a feel for my slider. I thought that was going to be a good pitch for me tonight."
Manager Jim Leyland saw it coming early on from his starter.
"He was out of whack for the most part all the way," Leyland said. "His control was not good from the get-go, really. And he had a tough time. And we just couldn't stop the bleeding."
The fateful third inning started innocently enough as Scherzer induced an Ian Kinsler groundout. Scherzer then issued a four-pitch walk to Elvis Andrus. Then, as they say, the floodgates opened.
Two walks, three hits and one questionable check-swing later, and Scherzer was done.
The check-swing call, which came on a 2-2 pitch to Nelson Cruz, loomed large as the possible second out in the inning. While Scherzer still felt Cruz went around after seeing the replay, he wasn't willing to attribute his struggles to one call.
"First thing's first, I still had a pitch there to not walk him and I did," Scherzer said. "I made more mistakes than just that one. You can play 'what if' all you want."
Scherzer found greater success against this Rangers lineup in Game 2 of the series, turning in a quality start -- three runs allowed and only one walk in six innings.
What was different on Saturday night?
"I didn't execute when I needed to most," Scherzer said. "The walks got away from me. The four-pitch walk to Andrus, that just can't happen. There's nobody on base. There's no game plan for that."
After registering a career-high 15 wins in 2011, Scherzer proved to be a key part of the Tigers' rotation down the stretch. With the pain of Saturday's loss so fresh, however, Scherzer was in no mood for reflection on his season.
"This is a tough one," Scherzer said. "This is the last one you're going to think about for the whole offseason. ... It's hard right now. This isn't a good feeling."
Bailey Stephens is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.