Tigers establish new first-half strikeout mark
Scherzer gets record-breaker as Detroit surpasses 2001 Yankees
DETROIT -- Coming into the season, the Tigers were expected to challenge hitting records. But with a third-inning strikeout by Max Scherzer in Sunday's game, the Tigers established a new American League record for collective strikeouts before the All-Star break.
Detroit tallied nine K's in Sunday's 7-1 victory against the Royals to push their first-half total to 715. The 2001 Yankees, with Roger Clemens, Mike Mussina and Andy Pettitte, held the old mark of 710.
Considering the Tigers have been without Doug Fister for most of the first half, start Rick Porcello -- a sinkerballer looking for contact rather than swings and misses -- and have utilized 21 different pitchers and seen six Major League debuts, it's a pretty remarkable feat.
Scherzer fanned first baseman Eric Hosmer in the first inning and then got him to whiff on five pitches in the fourth inning for the record-breaker. Scherzer also got Yuniesky Betancourt, Mike Moustakas and Jarrod Dyson before tallying strikeout No. 711.
The right-handed Scherzer finished the game with a total of seven, and ranks third in the AL with 121. The only two ahead of him are teammate Justin Verlander (128) and Mariners ace Felix Hernandez (122).
Scherzer and Verlander's total of 249 K's prior to the All-Star break are the most by a pair of Tigers since Mickey Lolich and Joe Coleman had 295 in 1972, although Lolich and Coleman got 12 more starts (47) than Verlander and Scherzer (35).
With Scherzer on the mound Sunday, it seemed like Detroit was a lock to get the record. His K's per nine innings rate of 11.35 is tops in the AL. Also, the Tigers have had fewer than five strikeouts in only six games this season.
"Strikeouts are nice," Scherzer said. "They come into play because they can't put the ball in play and get a hit. For me, they're a product of where my stuff is at, personally. I feel being able to locate my fastball and, obviously, where my slider and my changeup are, are at the best of my career [in] being able to be consistent with it from start to start. I think that's why I'm generating a lot more swings and misses."
Rookie Drew Smyly also had a hand in the record. His 10 strikeouts on Friday against the Royals placed him 27th in the AL with 75. And despite the constant shifting, the Tigers' bullpen ranks second in the AL with 262 K's.
Reliever Octavio Dotel capped off Sunday's contest fittingly. The journeyman, who has already set some records of his own this year playing for his 13th team and becoming the 93rd pitcher in Major League history to appear in 700 games, sat down Moustakas swinging with a crowd of 36,693 at Comerica Park on their feet for No. 715.
Anthony Odoardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.