Just five days after throwing a three-hitter against the White Sox, Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer hit a speedbump.
In his worst start of the season, Scherzer (8-3, 3.84) was tagged for 10 runs on 10 hits by the Royals, including a pair of homers, over just four innings. The right-hander has given up 30 runs in 39 1/3 innings over his last six outings, with opponents batting .319 against him during that span.
With 111 strikeouts to just 29 walks on the year, command might not be the issue for Scherzer. But the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner maintains that his location needs to improve in the later counts as he prepares to duel against Josh Tomlin and the Indians on Sunday.
"With two strikes, I'm just not putting guys away," Scherzer said. "If I'm throwing offspeed out of the zone, it's too far out of the zone. I'm throwing fastballs over the middle of the plate, not located. Those are the types of results I'm not getting."
Scherzer has issued 18 walks after getting hitters to an 0-2 count this season. The 29-year-old's last time pitching in Cleveland, in which he allowed seven runs over seven frames, marked the beginning of his recent string of subpar starts.
The Indians will counter with right-hander Tomlin in the series finale, who like Scherzer, is coming off a rough start that was marred by the long ball.
On Tuesday, Tomlin (4-4, 3.86) surrendered six runs (five earned) on 11 hits against the Angels. Outfielder Mike Trout did most of the damage on a three-run homer, though it was Howie Kendrick that ultimately chased Tomlin with a sixth-inning solo shot.
"He didn't walk anybody, rarely does," Indians manager Terry Francona said after the game. "Just locating his fastball, even coming from the bullpen, he said he was yanking fastballs, so he was fighting that coming in."
Tomlin missed just about all of last season recovering from Tommy John surgery. As he pitches into the heart of June, he says his arm still feels fine despite the workload, but does recognize that there may be a lingering acclimation period as he logs more innings.
"I know there's some residual effect that does come with [Tommy John surgery] every now and then," Tomlin said. "Hopefully, I can keep in the same routine I've been in. I've been feeling good so far, my body's been cooperating so far, so I'm just going to try to keep doing the same thing and compete."
Indians: Pestano makes his comeback
Vinnie Pestano pitched out of the Cleveland bullpen on Friday for the first time since he was optioned to the Minors on April 9 -- a scoreless, one-out appearance.
"I missed all these guys. It's great coming in here and seeing all the smiles. It's a happy day," Pestano said.
The right-handed reliever was recalled from Triple-A Columbus ahead of the Tribe's weekend series with the Tigers when starting pitcher Zach McAllister was sent down to the same affiliate. The move bolstered the team's relief corps to nine men.
After struggling to begin the season, Pestano has since rediscovered his rhythm on the mound, posting a 0.48 ERA and a 0.75 WHIP over his last 18 outings with Columbus. He held opposing batters to a .172 average, struck out 20 and walked only three during that span.
"Vinnie is actually to be commended," Francona said. "That's a hard thing to do. We try not to forget, ever, Vinnie was the eighth-inning guy here and one of the best in the league. A year later, it's a little bit of a struggle and you lose your role a little bit, then you get sent down and it's not easy. He handled it really well."
Pestano worked another scoreless outing on Saturday night, retiring the only two batters he faced.
Tigers: Torii could sit in favor of Martinez
Torii Hunter's return to the Detroit starting lineup may have to wait a little longer.
With the veteran outfielder slowly recovering from a left hamstring injury and J.D. Martinez continuing his hot streak at the plate, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus feels no need to rush Hunter back out onto the field.
"I don't think Torii's ready to play full nine innings," Ausmus said. "He can pinch-hit, probably play a few innings in the outfield if he needed to."
On Saturday, Martinez extended his hitting streak to a career-best 11 games with a second-inning single off starter Trevor Bauer. He is 18-for-43 at the plate in that stretch and has three homers in his last four games.
"They understand J.D.'s swinging the bat well, so I think they understand it wouldn't be smart to take J.D. out of the lineup," Ausmus said.
• The Tigers improved to 3-3 in extra-inning games this season with Saturday's 5-4 win in the 10th inning. The Indians fell to 6-2.
• With Saturday's two-hit performance, which included a solo home run, Tigers designated hitter Victor Martinez is 10-for-26 with five home runs in eight games against the Indians this season. He is batting .369 lifetime against his old team.
• The Tribe has hit .119 (7-for-59) with runners in scoring position over its last nine games, including a 1-for-8 performance in those situations on Saturday night.
Alec Shirkey is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.