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Max Scherzer's perfect major league debut out of the bullpen for the Arizona Diamondbacks exceeded even the lofty expectations his team had for him.
It also may have raised them - just in time for his first big league start.
Arizona's hard-throwing rookie will try to continue his streak of 13 straight batters retired to begin his career as he makes his first start on Monday, when the Diamondbacks begin a four-game series against the visiting Philadelphia Phillies.
Oddsmakers from Sportsbook.com have made Arizona -140 money line favorites (MLB Odds) for tonight's game, the over/under has been set at 9.5 total runs (Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 86% of bets for this game have been placed on Arizona -140 (View MLB Bet Percentages). Bet this game.
It took Scherzer (0-0, 0.00 ERA) just one relief appearance for the Diamondbacks (21-10) to prove to manager Bob Melvin that he belonged in a more important role.
The 23-year-old, who was selected in the first round of the 2006 draft by Arizona, was called up to the majors on April 27. Two days later, after starter Edgar Gonzalez allowed six runs in 2 2-3 innings against Houston last Tuesday, Melvin summoned Scherzer for his major league debut.
He responded by retiring all 13 batters he faced - seven on strikeouts - overpowering Astros hitters with a fastball consistently above 95 mph.
"You've got a guy throwing 98 and he had a nice slider to go with it," Astros manager Cecil Cooper said. "He kept the ball down, and when he needed that extra he went and got it. That's a pretty good arm there."
Melvin announced the next day Scherzer would replace Gonzalez in the Diamondbacks' starting rotation. He had already made four starts for Triple-A Tucson this season, compiling a 1.17 ERA with 38 strikeouts and three walks in 23 innings.
"We stretched him out (last Tuesday) and we saw exactly what they saw in Triple-A and what we saw in spring training," Melvin said. "Being that he was in a starting role and had the kind of success he did, it made sense to start him."
He'll try to help the Diamondbacks avoid their first back-to-back losses in three weeks. Arizona still has the best record in the majors, but Sunday's 5-2 loss to the New York Mets handed them their first series loss since their season-opening series at Cincinnati.
The Diamondbacks haven't dropped consecutive games since losing to Colorado and San Francisco on April 13-14.
They'll be facing a Philadelphia team that has won three consecutive series, taking this weekend's set against the Giants with a 6-5 win on Sunday. The Phillies (18-14) tied the game in the eighth on a home run by Carlos Ruiz, then won it in the ninth when Ryan Howard scored on an error, remaining in first place in the NL East.
Pat Burrell continued his torrid run for Philadelphia, going 2-for-3 with two doubles, two walks and two RBIs. Burrell is hitting .330 with nine home runs - tied for third in the majors behind teammate Chase Utley - and 30 RBIs, also tied for third in the league.
"This is the best I've seen because he's hitting more balls to right field," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel told his team's official Web site. "He's got a better setup and has got a little rhythm going. His swing is powerful. This is the best I've seen him hit."
Jamie Moyer (1-2, 4.50) will pitch for the Phillies on Monday. The left-hander, who is more than 22 years older than Scherzer, hasn't gone more than six innings in any start this year. He allowed four runs on nine hits in just 5 1-3 innings Wednesday, taking the loss against San Diego.
The Phillies dropped five of six to Arizona last year after going 5-1 in 2006.
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