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ROIT -- It was Max Scherzer on the hill last year in Game 6 of the American League Championship Series, when the Tigers were ultimately sent home by Texas just two wins shy of the World Series.
So it was only fitting this year, with the Tigers needing one win to sweep the Yankees and reach the World Series for the first time since 2006, that Scherzer was back out there battling to help Detroit earn its 11th AL pennant.
"I just used that as motivation," said Scherzer of the loss to the Rangers, when he got pegged for six runs in 2 1/3 innings. "If I ever had a shot to pitch in the ALCS again, I would do it and win. And sure enough, I was able to do it, and we're going to the World Series."
Scherzer not only pitched well, he dominated. He fanned 10 over 5 2/3 innings, allowing just two hits, as the Tigers completed the sweep with an 8-1 victory in Game 4 of the ALCS on Thursday. And for five of those innings, Scherzer held the Yankees hitless.
"It was just like, 'What do I want to put down?' He was executing every pitch," said Gerald Laird, who called catching Scherzer "thrilling."
"I knew if we could just get him a couple runs and let him settle down and get him a lead it would be huge. We were able to do that, got a quick run off CC [Sabathia] and then just let Max do his thing."
However, it wasn't just Scherzer -- as he'll be quick to point out. All four starters, including Doug Fister, Anibal Sanchez and Justin Verlander, combined to put up historic numbers.
The four pitched a total of 27 2/3 innings, limiting a veteran Yankees lineup to two earned runs in four games. That's good for a 0.65 ERA, which is the best mark by a starting rotation in LCS history.
Max Scherzer's 10 strikeouts in Game 4 of the ALCS set a new playoff single-game high for the right-hander. The total is the fourth-best single-game postseason performance in team history.
"We all knew that once we got into the postseason our staff was going to be our strength. We knew that out of spring," catcher Alex Avila said. "We knew that we had the guys that were able to take us far in the postseason. Just because of their stuff, they were able to strike guys out.
"They were pitching the last month of the season to help get us into that position to catch the White Sox and they were just able to continue. They were lights-out. I mean, I'm just putting down the fingers, they're making unbelievable pitches."
Sure, the Yankees helped the cause.
Robinson Cano's .056 average and .056 on-base percentage were the lowest marks in a single postseason in Major League history. Curtis Granderson's 16 strikeouts made him the fourth player with at least 15 in fewer than 10 games played. And as a group, the Yankees hit a poor .188 in the playoffs, which is their second-lowest batting average in team history.
But the Tigers weren't taking anything away from their pitching staff.
"They've got a good ballclub, and we know we have a good ballclub. But we got great pitching, and you have to give it up to our starting pitching this series," Laird said. "They came with it and they battled and they kept us in every game, gave us a chance to get a lead. And then they shut the door. I mean, I can't describe how good our starting pitching was this series. They were remarkable."
It hasn't just been for this series, either. Including the five games of the AL Division Series vs. Oakland, Detroit's rotation now owns a 1.02 ERA.
The staff ranks sixth all-time, just behind the 1905 New York Giants (0.00), 1966 Baltimore Orioles (0.61), the 1950 and 1939 Yankees (0.76 and 0.78, respectively) and the 1907 Chicago Cubs (1.00).
However, their 62 innings are far and away the most of the group.
"We've had a solid club all year, and we were waiting for it to gel, but our starting pitching has phenomenal talent," said president/general manager Dave Dombrowski after the game. "All of a sudden, you see these guys gel and we're riding them right now."
Riding them straight to the World Series, Scherzer said.
"We all executed out offspeed extremely well," he said. "We all had great fastballs and changeups and sliders and curveballs, that's what made us really tough. We were able to do that from start to start ... that's why we're going to the World Series."