video thumbnail

Ace-off: Scherzer and Harvey match up in New York

If Saturday's pitching matchup between the Tigers and Mets induces a sense of deja vu, no, it isn't just you.

Max Scherzer and Matt Harvey squared off once this year. At Citi Field, no less. That was back on July 16, when Scherzer and Harvey took the hill as the starting pitchers in the All-Star Game.

How rare is this rematch of All-Star starters? Virtually unprecedented, as it turns out.

It's the first time the All-Star Game starters have met at any point during that same regular season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The only two times the All-Star starters pitched against each other in the same season came in the World Series, according to Elias: Dwight Gooden vs. Roger Clemens in 1986, and Red Ruffing vs. Paul Derringer in 1939.

Suffice it to say, Saturday's game won't just be your run-of-the-mill showdown between two aces.

"I would think that would be an interesting game, for sure," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

Of course, this should be more of a duel than the last time they toed the same rubber. With 18 pitchers taking the mound in the All-Star Game, Scherzer and Harvey could only flash what they're capable of, although they certainly made the most of that opportunity.

Scherzer tossed one perfect inning, striking out Joey Votto and touching 99 mph. Harvey overcame a leadoff double and a hit batsman, mowing down the next six batters he faced in order and striking out three of them.

"It's going to be really exciting. I'm looking forward to it," Scherzer said. "I always enjoy facing the best. He's obviously one of the best pitchers in the NL, and this is what you play the game for, facing the best."

Indeed, Harvey is among the leading contenders for the National League Cy Young Award. He's a longshot to win it, however, because Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw has put together an even better season, and Harvey is expected to be shut down for the season after reaching the 200-inning threshold. But in his first full season, Harvey has quickly established himself as one of the game's best pitchers.

The 24-year-old right-hander is 9-4 with a 2.25 ERA, second to Kershaw. He's second in WHIP (0.89), strikeouts (187) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.03), third in hits per nine innings (6.40) and fifth in walks per nine (1.63) and innings pitched (171 2/3).

"I don't really know him, but I did have one National League guy tell me it's the best stuff he's ever faced," Leyland said. "And he's a pretty credible guy."

Meanwhile, Scherzer is making a case for the AL Cy Young Award. His 18-1 record obviously will appeal to voters. He's just the fifth pitcher since 1912 to begin a season with an 18-1 record and the first to do so since Clemens in 2001. But he's more than just a win-loss record.

The 29-year-old righty is allowing only 6.11 hits per nine innings and owns an AL-best 0.90 WHIP. His 2.82 ERA ranks sixth in the AL, and his 185 strikeouts are second behind only Texas' Yu Darvish. Scherzer's 4.87 strikeout-to-walk ratio also ranks second in the AL. But the most important thing to Scherzer is that he gives his team a chance to win every time he pitches.

Harvey has done the same, even if he can't match his counterpart's gaudy win total. The Mets are scoring only three runs per start for their young ace, resulting in a 13-12 record in his outings.

"He's a guy who wants to win every game," Mets manager Terry Collins said Sunday in San Diego. "There's not a guy that I've been around that's got better makeup and competes. Of course he's frustrated. But he also knows he has no control over that. He only has control over getting outs, and for the most part, he's done his job all year."

Neither Scherzer nor Harvey earned the win in the All-Star Game. That went to White Sox lefty Chris Sale. That's one part of this otherwise familiar scene they both surely would like to change Saturday.

"This is what you play the game for, to be in these type of situations when you face the best," Scherzer said. "You never measure yourself against the worst. You always measure yourself against the best, and I always enjoy the best pitchers in the game."

Tigers: V-Mart returns to catching role
• Victor Martinez started at catcher on Friday for the first time since 2011. Leyland wanted to keep Martinez's bat in the lineup in an NL park.

"I really wanted to get another try after surgery," Martinez said. "Before surgery, I wasn't able to squat a whole lot. Now I'm able to do all the stuff I used to do before."

Martinez has played first base this season, but has spent most of the year as Detroit's designated hitter.

Martinez suffered a knee injury in August 2011, and he couldn't squat to catch, forcing him to DH through the end of the season. Then Martinez needed surgery to repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament and missed the entire 2012 campaign.

Mets: Dice-K added to staff
• With Harvey and Zack Wheeler nearing their innings limits and two other starters undergoing season-ending surgeries, the Mets on Thursday signed former Red Sox right-hander Daisuke Matsuzaka. The veteran started the series opener against Detroit and suffered the loss after he allowed five runs on six hits over five innings.

The Indians released Matsuzaka, 32, after he made 19 starts for Triple-A Columbus.

• Harvey has spoken out in favor of a five-man rotation, but he owns a 2.11 ERA when pitching on five days' rest this year.

Worth noting
• Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera is one RBI shy of tying the second-highest season total of his career. He has 126 RBIs this season. Cabrera drove in 127 runs in 2008 and tallied a career-high 139 RBIs last season.

• The Tigers have won 32 of their last 47 games, dating back to July 2.

MLB.com Comments