ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Max Scherzer is getting as good at deflecting attention from his accomplishments as he is at shutting down opposing hitters.
The Detroit right-hander became the first pitcher to win 12 consecutive decisions to begin a season in 27 years on Friday night, riding a pair of home runs by Miguel Cabrera and a mammoth shot by Prince Fielder to beat the Tampa Bay Rays 6-3 and take over the major league lead in victories.
“It’s really nice to be 12-0,” said Scherzer, who allowed three runs, four hits, walked one and struck out nine in seven innings to become the first pitcher in Tigers history to win his first 12 decisions.
“I’m pitching well, but the reason I’m 12-0 is because of my offense,” he added. “You got to see firsthand today the best player in the game hitting two home runs on three pitches and going 4 for 4. And Prince hits a bomb. It’s the offense that set me up.”
Scherzer became the first in the majors to begin a season with at least 12 straight victories since Roger Clemens did it on the way to starting 14-0 with the Boston Red Sox in 1986. He’s 2-0 with a 2.57 ERA and 18 strikeouts in two wins over Tampa Bay this season.
“He’s just good. He’s got a little of that whiffle ball look from the side, where the ball is jumping all over the place,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “Then he gets the velocity when he wants it. There’s a reason why he’s 12-0. He’s very good.”
It helps to have Cabrera in the middle of the lineup.
The 2012 AL MVP went 4 for 4 and drove in three runs, boosting his major league-leading batting average to .377 with 24 homers and 81 RBIs, also tops in the big leagues. He hit a two-run homer in the first inning off Alex Colome (1-1) to extend his hitting streak to a season-best 13 games, then added a solo shot off the rookie for a 3-0 lead in the fourth.
Cabrera also singled in the sixth, giving him three of Detroit’s four hits off Colome. Fielder doubled in the fourth, tagged up and hustled to third base on Victor Martinez’s fly ball to right and eventually scored on a wild pitch to make it 4-0 before the Rays gradually climbed back into the game.
Ben Zobrist and Wil Myers hit solo homers for Tampa Bay. Luke Scott’s RBI double trimmed Scherzer’s lead to 4-3 in the seventh.
“All I thought about is winning today. My personal record is more a reflection of the team,” Scherzer said. “I don’t get caught up in the win-loss record because it’s kind of fluky. Yesterday Doug (Fister) goes seven innings, one run and gets a no-decision. I got six and (allow) three and get a win, so that’s why it’s a fluky stat.”
Cabrera doubled off Kyle Farnsworth in the eighth for his fourth hit. Fielder gave the Detroit bullpen some breathing room when he followed with his first homer since June 4, a towering two-run shot off Cesar Ramos that struck one of the catwalks that support the roof at Tropicana Field.
The Rays estimated Cabrera’s home runs traveled 388 and 432 feet. Fielder’s drive, which bounced off the catwalk and rolled back toward the infield, was estimated at 414 feet.
Cabrera, who leads the majors in hits and RBIs and is second behind Baltimore’s Chris Davis in home runs, was asked how far Fielder’s homer might have gone if it hadn’t hit something.
“Miami,” Cabrera said. “It was very far. It was impressive.”
Al Alburquerque and Drew Smyly worked a scoreless eighth for the Tigers. Joaquin Benoit finished a combined five-hitter, earning his fifth save.
Scherzer, who’s fanned at least six in each of his 16 starts this season, retired 11 in a row before Zobrist’s first-pitch drive to right with two outs in the fourth. The closest the Rays had come to getting a hit up until then was Evan Longoria’s second-inning grounder over the mound that Omar Infante ran down behind second base before making an off-balance throw to first for the out.
Longoria was removed from the game following that inning. The Rays later announced he irritated plantar fasciitis in his right foot, which has bothered him for the past month.
Maddon said Longoria, who has 17 homers and 47 RBIs, will not play Saturday and is doubtful for Sunday.
“A little bit tender in the foot area. We have to wait for it to calm down (Saturday) to make a better evaluation,” the Tampa Bay manager said. “Of course I’m concerned, but I don’t know the level yet until I get more information.”
RED SOX 7, BLUE JAYS 5
BOSTON — Jonny Gomes broke a tie with a seventh-inning single and the Red Sox won after squandering a five-run lead.
The Red Sox had 15 hits, giving them at least 10 for the sixth time in seven games.
Andrew Miller (1-2) got the win with 1 1-3 scoreless innings. Koji Uehara pitched the ninth for his fourth save of the season and third in three days. He retired all nine batters he faced in that span, six on strikeouts.
The Red Sox won their fourth in a row and improved to 16 games over .500 for the first time since they finished the 2011 season at 90-72.
With the score tied at 5, Shane Victorino and Dustin Pedroia singled in the seventh off Neil Wagner (1-2). Brett Cecil relieved and both runners moved up on a wild pitch before Mike Napoli walked, loading the bases.
Gomes, pinch hitting for Daniel Nava, then lined a single past third baseman Maicer Izturis.
ORIOLES 4, YANKEES 3
BALTIMORE — Nate McLouth hit a tiebreaking homer off CC Sabathia in the seventh inning, Manny Machado had two RBIs and Baltimore rallied to beat the Yankees.
Orioles rookie Kevin Gausman (1-3) earned his first major league victory, allowing three hits over 4 1-3 innings as part of a relief crew that blanked the Yankees over the final six innings.
Gausman followed for Rule 5 draftee T.J. McFarland, who yielded three runs in 2 2-3 innings in his first major league start.
Tommy Hunter got the final six outs for his second save.
Sabathia (8-6) took a no-hitter and a 3-0 lead into the sixth.
INDIANS 19, WHITE SOX 10, 1st game; INDIANS 9, WHITE SOX 8, 2nd game
CHICAGO — Nick Swisher hit a solo homer to cap a four-run ninth inning against Addison Reed in the second game to help Cleveland complete a sweep of the longest doubleheader by time for two nine-inning games.
After pounding Chicago 19-10 in the opener in a game that lasted 4 hours, 2 minutes, the Indians came through in the end to take the nightcap that ran 3:51. The 7:53 total made it the longest doubleheader with two nine-inning games on record.
Reed (3-1) entered with an 8-5 lead in the ninth but quickly ran into trouble, blowing his fourth save in 25 chances.
He started the inning by giving up three straight singles to Ryan Raburn, pinch-hitter Asdrubal Cabrera and Michael Bourn to make it a two-run game. He then threw a wild pitch to pinch-hitter Jason Giambi, allowing Cabrera to score. Jason Kipnis then tied it with a sacrifice fly to center field, driving in Bourn, and Swisher drilled a long homer to right with two outs on a 3-2 pitch to put Cleveland ahead.
That made a winner of Matt Langwell (1-0), who got his first career win even though he allowed two runs in the eighth.
In the first game, Kipnis reached base six times and scored four runs, Ryan Raburn homered and drove in four, and Cleveland rallied from five down early on. The Indians matched a season high for runs. They also set one with eight doubles while falling one hit shy of their season best with 21.
White Sox reliever Brian Omogrosso (0-2) allowed nine runs in 2 1-3 innings.
Matt Albers (2-0) got the win, allowing two hits over 2 1-3 scoreless innings.
ROYALS 9, TWINS 3
MINNEAPOLIS — Eric Hosmer hit two of Kansas City’s season-high four home runs and James Shields pitched six strong innings for his 90th win to lead the Royals.
Billy Butler and Mike Moustakas also homered for Kansas City.
Clete Thomas homered for the Twins, who got another rough start from P.J. Walters (2-4). Walters allowed six runs in three innings one start after giving up six in the first at Cleveland last Saturday.
The Royals entered the game with the fewest home runs in the majors (43) — two behind Miami — and had given Shields (3-6) some of the worst run support in the league.
ANGELS 4, ASTROS 2
HOUSTON — Pinch-runner Peter Bourjos scored the go-ahead run in the eighth inning on an error and Erick Aybar added a two-run single in the ninth to help the Angels beat the Astros.
Hank Conger doubled off Paul Clemens (4-3) to start the eighth. Conger was replaced by Bourjos before Aybar drew a walk. Bourjos took third on a fly out by J.B. Shuck. Shortstop Ronny Cedeno’s error on the play, when he bounced the ball trying to pick off Aybar at second, allowed Bourjos to dash home just ahead of the throw.
Aybar’s bases-loaded single sent two home and extended the lead to 4-1 in the ninth.
Los Angeles starter Jerome Williams limited Houston to five hits and a run over 6 1-3 innings. Dane De La Rosa (3-1) and Kevin Jepsen pitched 1 2-3 scoreless innings before Ernesto Frieri allowed one run in the ninth for his 20th save.
RANGERS 4, REDS 0
ARLINGTON, Texas — Martin Perez pitched six-hit ball into the seventh inning and AL West-leading Texas handed Cincinnati its third straight loss and sixth in the last seven.
The Reds also have more concerns about right-hander Johnny Cueto (4-2), their opening day starter already on the disabled list twice this season who left after a batter into the second inning because of rightness in his right lat muscle.
Perez (2-1) struck out three in 6 2-3 innings. The left-hander was coming off a win last Saturday at St. Louis, where he allowed runs in each of the first two innings before holding the Cardinals scoreless over his last five innings.
Jason Frasor and Robbie Ross finished off the Rangers’ second shutout in a row and seventh this season. Cincinnati was held scoreless for the sixth time.
ATHLETICS 6, CARDINALS 1
OAKLAND, Calif. — Bartolo Colon tossed eight innings of one-run ball to win his eighth straight start, powering Oakland past St. Louis.
Colon (11-2) controlled the game with an efficient fastball the way he has so many others this season, burnishing his All-Star credentials and confounding critics who question how the 40-year-old continues to dominate. He allowed six hits, struck out five and walked one to match Max Scherzer of Detroit for the most wins in the AL this season.
The A’s scored five runs in the second inning to knock Shelby Miller (8-6) out of the game and drop the Cardinals (48-31) a game behind Pittsburgh for the best record in the majors — and the NL Central lead.
MARINERS 5, CUBS 4, 10 INNINGS
SEATTLE — Mike Zunino hit a game-ending single in the bottom of the 10th inning to lift Seattle.
Michael Saunders and Raul Ibanez led off the 10th with back-to-back walks before Blake Parker (0-1) was relieved by Shawn Camp. Jason Bay advanced both runners with a sacrifice bunt, and Justin Smoak was intentionally walked to load the bases with one out. Zunino then worked the count full before singling up the middle.
Yoervis Medina (3-2) pitched the 10th to earn the win. Oliver Perez struck out the side in the ninth, his 12 consecutive scoreless inning pitched.
Alfonso Soriano and Dioner Navarro homered for the Cubs, who ended a two-game winning streak.