OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Max Scherzer and his bullpen stymied that late-game swagger that carried the Oakland Athletics so many times this season.
The A's were rattled and frustrated, and they showed it — an uncharacteristic scene for this easygoing group of AL West champions.
Scherzer overpowered Oakland's hitters with his dominant fastball, and then baffled them with his off-speed stuff. He struck out 11 over seven dominant innings as the Tigers grabbed Game 1 of this AL division series rematch from 2012 with a 3-2 victory Friday night.
A two-run homer and an unproductive triple by Yoenis Cespedes were hardly enough as the A's struck out a postseason franchise-high 16 times.
"This is not just about me. It depends on the team," Cespedes said. "I was good today but the rest of the team will be good tomorrow."
Cespedes was the only guy who could get anything going against Scherzer, the likely AL Cy Young Award winner who brought more of his best to the playoff stage.
Miguel Cabrera helped stake Detroit to an early lead before leaving in the eighth as a precaution.
Cabrera, hindered by a groin strain late in a season of injuries for last year's Triple Crown winner, didn't have to overextend himself on defense thanks to Scherzer's 118-pitch gem. But he did look uncomfortable running out a grounder in the eighth.
"We won the game, I think that's the more important thing right now," Cabrera said. "For us, it's not an issue. It's no time to complain, no time to worry."
Cabrera and Alex Avila each hit first-inning RBI singles against 40-year-old All-Star Bartolo Colon, whose winless stretch against the Tigers extended to 10½ years.
Scherzer had Oakland off balance from the start. The right-hander retired 16 of his first 18 batters and was nearly untouchable before Cespedes connected in the seventh for his first career playoff home run. The strikeouts were Scherzer's most in seven postseason starts.
"Today we noticed that my fastball seemed pretty good and my changeup seemed pretty good. That's why I thought I was able to get into a groove and pitch deep into the game because of those two pitches," Scherzer said. "I did a good job of attacking the zone and throwing first-pitch strikes, which I pride myself in."
Cespedes struck out in the ninth against closer Joaquin Benoit, who retired the final four batters for the save.
Benoit went right after the Cuban slugger.
"I can't let him think of what I'm going to do. I just have to attack him," Benoit said. "I don't really like when it's a one-run game trying to fool around with anybody. Either they're going to get me or I'm going to get you."
Leyland opted for Scherzer for the postseason opener over Justin Verlander, who goes Saturday night against 23-year-old rookie Sonny Gray in just his 11th career start. Verlander beat the A's in Games 1 and 5 of their postseason series last October, helping Detroit survive on its way to the World Series.
If you owe under $729k you may qualify for 3.05% APR Govt Refi Plans.