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Max Scherzer doesn't lack confidence

Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer delivers a pitch

Detroit Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer delivers a pitch in the seventh inning of Game 4 of the ALDS against the Oakland Athletics. (Oct. 8, 2013) Credit: Getty

BOSTON -- Max Scherzer insists he didn't draw any more confidence from 2013 than from his previous seasons -- even though he very well may end up winning the American League Cy Young Award.

"My confidence level has always been the same," said Scherzer, who will start Game 2 of the American League Championship Series Sunday night against Clay Buchholz of the Red Sox. "From the time I arrived in the big leagues until now."

The 29-year-old righthander has experienced mostly success since making his debut in 2008 with the Diamondbacks (he went 0-4 but had a 3.05 ERA in 16 appearances).

But Scherzer, shipped to the Tigers in the three-team trade after the 2009 season in which the Yankees acquired Curtis Granderson, blossomed from merely good to great this season. For one year, anyway, he outpitched staff ace Justin Verlander.

After starting the season 13-0 and moving to 19-1 on Aug. 24 with a victory over the Mets, Scherzer finished 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA.

Verlander, very much still an ace -- as he showed when he went eight innings in the Tigers' 3-0 victory in ALDS Game 5 against the A's -- finished 13-12, 3.46.

"I believe confidence is a choice," Scherzer said. "I always choose that I'm going to believe that I'm always going to come out on top. It doesn't matter if you're struggling or if you're on top. You always have to believe that you're going to have success."

Tigers manager Jim Leyland attributed Scherzer's jump to elite pitcher this season to becoming more consistent with his mechanics.

The 68-year-old manager later added that the mental aspect of the game might have been a factor, too.

"I think he's one of those guys that, it happens now and then, guys get on a roll," Leyland said. "Whether it's the guy shooting three-pointers or a hot field-goal kicker or whatever it is. Sometimes guys get on a roll, and that's the type of year he's had."

Scherzer will try to keep it going against the Red Sox, a team he faced twice during the season, going 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA. The latter start was a 2-1 loss at Fenway Park Sept. 3 when the righthander allowed two runs and five hits in eight innings.

Boston led the American League in a handful of offensive categories, including runs (853), OBP (.349), slugging (.446) and doubles (363).

"You're just going against the best," Scherzer said. "I came in here earlier in the season and pitched well, but I know that they can get me at any point. I know how good they are. They're going to have a great game plan against me and it comes down to execution. That's what you want, the best going against the best."

The Tigers' rotation was the best in the AL this season, posting a 3.44 ERA (Oakland's starting staff was second with a 3.72 ERA).

It is a diverse group of arms that includes Game 1 starter Anibal Sanchez (14-8, 2.57), Verlander (who will start Game 3) and Game 4 starter Doug Fister (14-9, 3.67).

"We're all really good pitchers and we all go about it in different ways. I think that's the unique thing that we have," Scherzer said.

"We all have great numbers but we all have different stuff, and that's the beauty of us. We don't have just all power, we're all not finesse. We're a blend of everything."

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