BALTIMORE -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland credits Max Scherzer with learning how to make adjustments in the middle of a game, finding a consistent arm slot and adding pitches.
To Scherzer, though, the difference this season comes down to one big factor.
"The reason I'm pitching better is because I have a curveball," Scherzer said. "I have three pitches to throw at a left-handed hitter. That's the single reason why I'm pitching better."
Scherzer believes in it that much.
"It's just been huge for me," he said, "because most of the time, they stack left-handers against me. My slider has just never matched up well against lefties. I started with it last year, and it's gotten better every single time."
Scherzer feels confident enough in the curveball that he's willing to throw it when he's not ahead of a hitter. He threw one with a 1-1 count against Chris Dickerson in the second inning Friday and got a nasty swing and miss. He also threw one to Adam Jones in the sixth inning, one at-bat following the Oriole's two-run homer.
"That's the pitch that changes an at-bat," Scherzer said. "Curveball completely changes the approach. Now he's disrupted timing. Now he has to respect a third pitch. And you can't cover all three. You can't cover all three speeds."
Jackson still sore, hoping to start rehab stint soon
BALTIMORE -- Austin Jackson went through a full batting practice on Saturday, hitting outside at Camden Yards before shagging fly balls. However, he had some lingering soreness in his left hamstring which has manager Jim Leyland concerned.
"He was sore today, so I don't really have anything for you," Leyland said.
Jackson said the soreness simply lingered from running the bases on Friday, which he did at about 80 percent speed.
"It was just sore from the first time running the bases," Jackson said.
All the same, Jackson did not run the bases Saturday.
"Just took it easy today," he said.
The running is the biggest test for Jackson. Everything else is a matter of getting back to game readiness again after spending the last three weeks on the disabled list.
Jackson is expected to do more work Sunday. If that goes well, he'll meet with Tigers staffers, including the training staff, to determine the next step, which could be a Minor League rehab assignment.
"I don't want the kid to take his time, and I don't want him to rush himself," Leyland said. "I want him to just, whatever happens, the nature of it should take care of it.
Leyland: No confidence lost in Valverde
BALTIMORE -- Jose Valverde will turn the page. So will his manager.
Despite Jim Leyland expressing frustration over a game his closer let get away in the ninth inning Friday, Valverde's status moving forward was never in question.
"He's done a good job so far," manager Jim Leyland said Saturday. "He let one get away last night."
Friday's was the second blown save in seven opportunities for Valverde. His numbers were strong going in, with a run on three hits over 12 innings. His four walks were a concern, but he hadn't walked anyone in his previous four outings. His 11 strikeouts were arguably a surprise while he tries to work in his splitter.
A hanging splitter set up the first of two home runs in the ninth inning Friday night, a Nick Markakis solo shot.
A couple weeks ago, Leyland warned that Valverde was still not in pitching shape, even though he was in physical shape. That, he said, is no longer the case.
"There's nothing wrong with Valverde," Leyland said. "I think he's ready to take his times when you call on him."
Cabrera begins June on historic pace
BALTIMORE -- Miguel Cabrera's marvelous May ended Friday night with a two-run homer, a single and a walk. He entered June on a pace no one has seen in the big leagues, then picked it up again on Saturday.
At this point, however, he isn't focused on the numbers. His experience dealing with the attention of the Triple Crown chase last September has taught him how to handle it.
"I try to keep focused on what we want. I try to win games," Cabrera said after his grand slam in Saturday's 10-3 win over the Orioles at Camden Yards. "I don't get distracted about what people say. Go out there and play your game, try to play to win and that's it. Don't try to put extra pressure on yourself and don't try to do anything else [other than what] you can do."
Cabrera entered play Saturday leading the Majors with a .372 batting average and 61 RBIs, while ranking second to Baltimore's Chris Davis with 16 home runs. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Cabrera became the first player in Major League history to enter June batting at least .340 with 15 or more home runs and 60 or more RBIs.
His 60th and 61st RBIs Friday night kept him on pace with Hank Greenberg's team-record 1937 season, when he drove in 183 runs. Greenberg actually had a better pace through 53 games in 1935, plating 64 runs in that span.
One game into June, Cabrera is now ahead of Greenberg -- not just his 1937 pace, but his faster RBI pace from 1935. According to STATS, he has more RBIs through 54 games than any player in franchise history.
With Saturday's win, the Tigers are exactly one-third of the way through their regular-season schedule. Multiple Cabrera's numbers by three, and you can figure out the craziness of his pace. If he kept this up, he'd have 51 home runs and 195 RBIs. The latter wouldn't just break Greenberg's franchise record of 183, but Hack Wilson's Major League mark of 191 set with the 1930 Chicago Cubs.
Lou Gehrig holds the American League record with 184 for the 1931 New York Yankees.
Nobody since World War II has driven in more runs than Manny Ramirez, who plated 165 in 1999. Cabrera's just under 40 percent of the way toward that total.
• Jake Thompson, the Tigers' top pick in last year's First-Year Player Draft, allowed three runs on nine hits over 5 2/3 innings Friday night in his debut for Class A West Michigan at Fort Wayne. Four of the nine hits off Thompson went for extra bases, including a home run to the second batter Thompson faced. The 19-year-old walked one and struck out four.
• Avisail Garcia said he thought he had a good read on Markakis' home run leading off the ninth inning Friday night, but he did not believe the ball hit his glove. Replays suggested the ball was just out of his reach as it landed off the padding in right field.
• Leyland had ample praise for Davis, who leads the American League in home runs while ranking second to Cabrera in the other Triple Crown categories. "He's made some adjustments at the plate," Leyland said. "He's handled some pitches he didn't handle probably earlier in his career. And he's got a real loud sound when he hits it. He's really a good-looking hitter. He's a force standing in there. I mean, that's a man standing in there."
• Leyland met with Major League Baseball officials Saturday morning at Camden Yards for a planning session on his duties leading up to next month's All-Star Game. Leyland will manage the AL team as the manager of the reigning league champions, and he'll have to make some final roster decisions following the voting results for the starting lineup, key reserves and pitchers.
• Major League Baseball announced a scoring change earlier this week from Monday's Tigers-Pirates game at Comerica Park. Russell Martin's eighth-inning ground ball against Joaquin Benoit, originally ruled an error on first baseman Prince Fielder, has been changed to a single.