Max Scherzer Remains the Key for the First-Place Detroit Tigers

Jay WierengaCorrespondent ISeptember 5, 2011

DETROIT - SEPTEMBER 04:  Max Scherzer #37 of the Detroit Tigers warms up prior to the start of the first inning during the game against the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park on September 4, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan.  (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Leon Halip/Getty Images

This past weekend was an absolute joy to watch. Unless, of course, you are a Chicago White Sox fan. Then hopefully you had plenty of fluids, especially the kind that takes your mind off of problems temporarily.

The Tigers were clicking on all cylinders, and winning just about every way possible. There was a thriller, some great pitching and a blowout to officially end the Sox' playoff hopes.

And while the sudden emergence of Austin Jackson is beyond encouraging and the season-ending injury to Brennan Boesch is beyond discouraging, one player quietly reminded us of his brilliance.

Max Scherzer was supposed to have figured this pitching thing out by now. During the second half of last season, he was quite possibly more impressive than Justin Verlander. He had great command of his breaking stuff, and his fastball was reaching the upper-90s.

This year was supposed to be his coming-out party.

However, he just hasn't been able to consistently break out, leading some to compare him to former Tigers pitcher Jeremy Bonderman. Scherzer has looked amazing at times, like on Sunday when he struck out six and gave up no earned runs in seven strong innings. But this comes on the heels of a terrible outing in which he gave up seven in just three innings.

This season has been a walking contradiction for Scherzer.

On the one hand, he has 14 wins. On the other hand, he has the fifth-best run support in the majors at just a hair under eight per start. He continues to strike a ton of batters out, but when his secondary pitches aren't working, he gets lit up like Times Square on New Year's.

The problem, obviously, is consistency. Scherzer doesn't need to have Verlander stuff every game, but he has to keep the Tigers in the game. They don't need him to no-hit opponents. But with his type of skills, he needs to have a quality start every game, especially down the stretch.

Given the amount of run support he gets, his should be much closer to 20 wins right now. However, he seems almost incapable of having a month without one terrible start.

Look at his season so far. In three of the five months so far, he has given up at least five earned runs in at least two starts. Worse yet, he has six starts with six or more earned runs allowed, in three of which he allowed seven runs.

That is just way too many for a pitcher with Scherzer's type of stuff.

Sure, the Tigers shored up their rotation with Doug Fister, and Rick Porcello has looked good of late, but in a seven-game series, they will need Scherzer to pitch at least one of those games, and maybe two.

And in the playoffs, it is asking way too much of any offense to get your pitcher eight runs of support, even an offense as talented as the Tigers.