This time, Max Scherzer was staying in.
And this time, Joe Nathan wasn't coming out.
Last time Scherzer took the mound -- Saturday against the Toronto Blue Jays -- he spun eight shutout innings, collected double-digit strikeouts and could only watch as the Tigers' embattled closer smeared his painting in the ninth inning.
But Thursday, Scherzer once again spun eight shutout innings, once again collected double-digit strikeouts -- 14 of them, a season-high -- and threw a season-high 121 pitches before the Tigers' offense backed him for good in a 5-2 win over the Pirates, salvaging a home-and-home series split and side-stepped a potentially awkward situation in the ninth inning.
With Nathan warming up for the save opportunity just a night after he responded to boos on the mound with a chin flick to the fans, the Tigers scored three runs in the eighth inning to make it 5-0 and allowed Nathan to keep his distance from that same mound.
Scherzer, meanwhile, clocked in a second consecutive spectacular performance and, this time, was rewarded with a win for his efforts (14-4).
He struck out the side in the first and second and tallied all but two of his strikeouts on swing-and-misses. He allowed no runs on three hits and walked two.
At 108 pitches to finish the seventh, he came back out for the eighth and, 13 pitches later, exited to a standing ovation from a sellout crowd at Comerica Park.
J.D. Martinez gave the Tigers the lead with a solo home run in the fifth inning to break up Pirates lefty Francisco Liriano's no-hit bid and padded the lead an inning later with a bases-loaded walk.
The home run was Martinez's 16th of the season.
In the eighth, he plated this third RBI of the game on an infield single and, one batter later, Nick Castellanos put the game out of reach with a two-run single to centerfield.
Phil Coke entered the game in the ninth inning and allowed a walk and a home run by Gaby Sanchez before Joba Chamberlain sealed the win with the final two outs.
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