'Mad' Max puts injuries aside, shoulders Game 4 responsibility


'Mad' Max puts injuries aside, shoulders Game 4 responsibility

Programming note: Tune in to SportsNet Central's A's October Quest tonight at 5:30pm on Comcast SportsNet California leading up to today's ALDS Game 4 in Oakland!

OAKLAND -- "Mad" Max Scherzer's eyes may be two different colors, but he can see his catcher's target plenty clear, especially when facing the Oakland A's.

Scherzer -- who sports a blue eye in his right socket and a brown in his left thanks to his case of heterochromia iridum of the eye -- has faced players on the A's current playoff roster in 40 at-bats, and the A's have collected 10 hits, only two of which went for extra bases. They have drawn five walks and been sent back to the dugout 19 times.

Despite his success against the A's, Scherzer did not want to face them Wednesday, wishing his team would close out the series in a sweep.

"I was the biggest cheerleader (Tuesday), hoping that we would win," Scherzer said. "It is a little bit weird not wanting to pitch."

Like it or not, he'll stare down the Athletics' lineup in Game 4. With just the best eight MLB teams remaining, there aren't very many easy outs left. And Scherzer knows that the A's lineup -- while unlikely so -- is no exception. Citing the speed at the top of the lineup, and the pop through its heart, the Tigers' starter is gearing up for a battle.

"It's going to present a challenge for me," Scherzer acknowledged.

Pitching in Oakland, surprisingly, might also present a challenge. Despite his solid numbers against the A's, Scherzer hasn't fared well in the pitcher-friendly confines of the Coliseum. In two career starts he is 1-1 with a 5.56 ERA, though he does have 17 strikeouts in 11 13 innings.

Getting strikeouts has never been a problem for Scherzer. If it weren't for teammate and reigning AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer would have led all of baseball with 231 strikeouts this year.

RELATED: MLB strikeout leaders

It's not a good sign for the A's, who struck out an American League-record 1,387 times this season. Their 27 strike threes this postseason are second only to the Tigers' 28.

But the A's showed in Game 1 against Verlander that they can work pitches out of a tough pitcher, and Scherzer's ability to go deep in a game is questionable. If it's a bullpen game, it's working in the A's favor.

Scherzer's season was affected by injuries late. He had to leave his Sept. 18 start against the A's when his shoulder flared up after two innings; the muscle soreness in his right deltoid forced him to to miss his penultimate start of the season. Then he rolled his right ankle in the on-field celebration after the Tigers clinched their second consecutive AL Central title. He was able to make his final start of the regular season exactly one week ago, although he only made it through four innings and 75 pitches.

Despite the fragile shoulder and ankle, the 28-year old power righty doesn't expect his health to impact the most important start of his season. He threw a bullpen session on Monday and declared himself 100 percent, a sentiment he reiterated in his press conference on Tuesday.

"There shouldn't be any limitations," Scherzer insisted.

Scherzer's pitch count hasn't reached the century mark since his Sept. 12 start in the south side of Chicago, though he topped 100 pitches in 16 of his 17 prior starts. His heaviest workload came way back in June when he threw 122 times.

"He feels great," Tigers manager Jim Leyland echoed before shedding the first light on how Scherzer's pitch count will be handled. "How long he'll be able to go will have something to do with the Oakland hitters. We'll play that by ear. But health-wise, he's very healthy. He's a hundred percent. We'll monitor him close. But I expect him to be full bore, all out and the game will dictate how long he pitches."

While the claim is that health won't impact his performance, the raucous Oakland crowd might. The Tigers could do nothing but tip their collective cap to energy A's fans provided after Game 3, and the electric vibe did not escape a spectating Scherzer.

RELATED: Tigers tip hat to Oakland crowd

"That was probably the most rowdy atmosphere I've ever seen here, pretty much in any ballpark I've ever been in," Scherzer said. "From the first inning to the ninth inning, they were on their feet cheer for every pitch, every out. I give them a lot of kudos for the atmosphere they were able to provide."

Utilizing his power four-seam fastball, slider and changeup, Scherzer will do his best to silence the expected sellout. But after the improbable and empowering season the A's put together, hammering the nail in their coffin won't come easily.

"It's been a little freaky, to be honest with you," Leyland said. He wasn't talking about the A's season or Scherzer's mismatched eyes, he was talking about the 2012 playoffs as a whole. That the Oakland Athletics are a part of it is wild enough, that they have a chance to force a decisive Game 5 after dropping the first two ALDS games is the stuff you can't predict.

From Leyland, one of MLB's old souls and the winningest active manager in the league: "It's baseball and you never know how it's going to play out."

Mariners sign former A's lefty reliever to $11 million deal over two years

Mariners sign former A's lefty reliever to $11 million deal over two years

The Seattle Mariners have signed free agent lefty reliever Marc Rzepczynski to a two-year contract.

Rzepczynski's deal is fo $11 million over two years. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN first reported details of the contract

The Mariners also signed right-handed reliever Casey Fien on Saturday. Left-hander Dean Kiekhefer and righty Zach Lee were designated for assignment.

The 31-year-old Rzepczynski was a combined 1-0 with a 2.64 ERA in 70 games for Oakland and Washington this season. He then pitched three times in the NL playoffs for the Nationals.

Rzepczynski has made at least 70 appearances in each of the last three years. He's also pitched for Toronto, St. Louis, Cleveland and San Diego in an eight-season career.

The 33-year-old Fien was 1-1 with a 5.49 ERA in 39 games for Minnesota and the Los Angeles Dodgers.

The 27-year-old Kiekhefer made his major league debut last season and pitched 26 times in relief for the Cardinals. Seattle claimed him off waivers from St. Louis last month.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Report: Beltran agrees to one-year deal with AL West team

Report: Beltran agrees to one-year deal with AL West team

Houston's offseason shopping spree got a little richer on Saturday.

More than 12 years after going to the Astros in a trade deadline deal, nine-time All-Star Carlos Beltran has reportedly agreed to return to Houston.

According to multiple national reports, the pact is a one-year, $16 million deal.

News of an agreement was first reported by ESPN. Terms were first reported by Fox Sports.

Beltran, who will be 40 years old in April, joins outfielder Josh Reddick and catcher Brian McCann as new Astros this offseason.

In 151 games between the Yankees and Rangers in 2016, Beltran hit .295/.337/.513 with 33 doubles, 29 home runs and 93 RBI.

During the 2004 season, the Royals traded a then-27-year-old Beltran to the Astros in a three-team deal that involved the A's. Oakland sent third baseman Mark Teahan and pitcher Mike Wood to Kansas City, while the A's received reliever Octavio Dotel from Houston. Kansas City also received catcher John Buck from the Astros.

Beltran's brief run with the Astros in 2004 was highlighted by one of the greatest postseason performances in MLB history. In 12 games, Beltran collected 20 hits and hit eight home runs.