DETROIT -- Max Scherzer lost his unbeaten season three weeks ago. Then he really started pitching stingy.
"He's always had great stuff, but in the past you would get one or two pitches to hit and you would capitalize," White Sox slugger Adam Dunn said after Scherzer's latest gem. "He doesn't walk guys like he used to and his stuff is as good, if not the best, in the game."
The White Sox had another chance at Scherzer on Saturday night at Comerica Park after watching him pick their lineup apart last week in Chicago. This time, Scherzer actually made it look easier.
But then, the numbers show Scherzer to be as close to unbeatable this season as any pitcher in the last decade. With 7 2/3 innings of three-hit ball in a 3-0 shutout at Comerica Park, Scherzer became the first pitcher since Roger Clemens in 2001 -- and the second pitcher in the last 44 years -- with a 16-1 record.
Clemens got to 20-1 with the Yankees before losing his final two decisions. Dave McNally started out 16-1 with the Orioles in 1969.
"He's obviously on a pretty good roll," manager Jim Leyland said.
When the Rangers finally handed Scherzer a loss a few weeks back, his comparisons to those two were supposed to end. The way he's pitching now, it's arguably time to stop talking about Scherzer's season exclusively in terms of wins and losses.
He's 3-0 in three starts since losing to Texas just before the All-Star break, but the pitching behind it has been his best all season. Opponents have mustered just two runs on eight hits in 21 2/3 innings in those outings, drawing just three walks against 18 strikeouts.
The last run Scherzer allowed came from a Conor Gillaspie homer. That wasn't Saturday. That was July 22, two starts ago. Scherzer now has 13 2/3 scoreless innings since.
Scherzer has said repeatedly that he doesn't judge himself on wins and losses, but how he pitches. He's backing it up.
"He's got a lot of stuff going for him, throwing hard and everything," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "But this year, especially just controlling off-speed pitch, his slider, you can see guys catch up to the velocity and then awareness in the field to throw that slider pretty good. [He'll] make it look like a fastball and then it dives out of the zone."
Scherzer's six scoreless innings last Saturday against the Phillies was a relative cruise in a 10-0. This game never got that far out of hand -- three runs actually marked Scherzer's third-lowest run support of the season -- but his pitching never let it feel within reach.
He took three Tigers solo homers off White Sox lefty John Danks and pitched like he had a trio of three-run blasts behind him.
"When you get Max some runs, get him a little run support, he's a bulldog," said Torii Hunter, whose first-inning homer put Detroit ahead for good. "He battles on the mound. It doesn't matter who's at the plate. He's coming after you."
The Tigers, meanwhile, are trying their best to pull away. Scherzer's gem stretched Detroit's winning streak to seven games, its longest since winning 12 in a row to run away with the American League Central in September 2011.
Cleveland's win at Miami kept Detroit's lead at three games with one more game left before the two sides meet at Progressive Field for four games beginning Monday.
"It's all about the team," Scherzer said. "We're in first place, we have to keep it there. The Indians and Royals are playing really good baseball right now and anything can happen so we have to finish the season strong."
The Tigers have their opponents to one run or less in six games on this streak, including four in a row. On Saturday, the only White Sox baserunner to reach scoring position against Scherzer got there without a hit. Singles from Dunn leading off the second inning, Gillaspie in the seventh and Alejandro De Aza in the eighth accounted for all the hitting damage.
Though Scherzer allowed leadoff baserunners in three of his first five innings, two third-inning walks comprised the only real threat against him. Once Scherzer ended the inning with an Alex Rios flyout to left, he pretty well rolled through an aggressive-swinging White Sox lineup from there.
"I walked three. That's always one thing that I pride myself in, not walking guys, but I was able to pitch around those," Scherzer said. "I didn't let some of those guys beat me in some of those situations. I felt again that I was pitching with four pitches again tonight and just keeping the ball down. A couple balls they hit hard, Austin [Jackson] ran back and tracked them down and he played a great game tonight."
Scherzer struck out six batters, pushing his career total to 999. He had an 0-2 count on De Aza with two outs in the eighth and the sellout crowd of 43,906 on its feet when De Aza sent a line drive single into left field, leading Leyland to the mound to end Scherzer's outing.
Hunter's 12th home run of the year put Detroit ahead in the opening inning before Jhonny Peralta sent a Danks fastball into the shrubs in straightaway center field, an estimated 444-foot drive according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Jose Iglesias capped the damage with his first home run as a Tiger, sending a Danks offering over the bullpen and into the left-field seats.
Danks (2-9) settled down to retire the final 10 batters he faced, but Scherzer and Detroit's bullpen never gave the Sox hope of getting him off the hook. Jose Veras replaced Scherzer in the eighth to retire Alexei Ramirez before Joaquin Benoit pitched the ninth for his 12th save in as many chances.