Instead they turned in a sloppy effort and the Tigers made them pay.
Scherzer won his 13th straight decision and Alex Avila hit a three-run homer as Detroit defeated Toronto 6-2 at Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays made three errors on the night, leading to five unearned runs.
"We definitely didn't help ourselves there," said Toronto manager John Gibbons. "And like I've said before, against the better pitchers if you fall behind like that it's an uphill battle."
Scherzer (13-0) allowed seven hits, two earned runs and had eight strikeouts over 6 1-3 innings. He became the first starting pitcher to open the season by winning 13 straight decisions since Roger Clemens, who went 14-0 to start the 1986 season with the Boston Red Sox.
Toronto's Josh Johnson (1-3) turned in another inconsistent outing and also struggled in the field, making two errors in the third inning alone. The game's key miscue was an error by second baseman Emilio Bonifacio that led to four unearned runs in the second inning.
That was more than enough offence for Scherzer, who was hit hard a few times but maintained his steadiness throughout. Victor Martinez chipped in with a solo homer drove in two runs for Detroit (45-38).
Toronto (41-43) fell two games below the .500 mark with its second straight loss and will need a win Thursday to salvage a split of the four-game series.
Johnson, who returned to the lineup June 9 after missing seven weeks with right triceps inflammation, lasted five innings and allowed seven hits, one earned run, two walks and had five strikeouts. He has pitched five innings or less in five of his 10 starts this year.
"That's the frustrating thing is I'm feeling good and I just want to go out there and throw some innings for this team and I'm not really doing my job," Johnson said.
The veteran right-hander gave up an infield single to Prince Fielder in the second inning. Martinez then hit a tailor-made double-play ball that went through Bonifacio's legs and rolled into right field.
Jhonny Peralta followed with a single that scored Fielder with the game's first run. Johnson recorded the next two outs before Avila turned on a 3-2 pitch for his sixth homer of the year.
The Blue Jays threatened in the bottom half but couldn't push a run across. Mark DeRosa hit a two-out triple and J.P. Arencibia followed with a blast to centre field that Austin Jackson snagged with a highlight-reel catch at the top of the wall.
In the third, Johnson fumbled a dribbler near the front of the mound. That allowed Torii Hunter to reach base and he scored on a Martinez single to make it 5-0.
Johnson later mishandled a chopper for his second error. The Tigers loaded the bases but Jose Bautista prevented any further damage with a nice running catch on an Omar Infante drive to right-centre field.
Infante had to leave the game in the fourth inning with a left leg injury after a hard slide by Colby Rasmus on a potential double-play ball. Gibbons declined comment on the play and the Toronto centre-fielder wasn't immediately available to discuss it after the game.
"We're really mad about that slide, that's a very dirty play in my book," Scherzer said. "When you watch it on replay, his spikes are up, he's sliding late. Rajai Davis is running there, he's going to be safe at first, we're most likely not going to turn two there.
"There's no reason to slide in like that. I feel like he should be suspended."
Martinez padded Detroit's lead in the fifth when he smacked a 1-2 pitch over the wall in right field for his seventh homer of the season. Todd Redmond, who was called up earlier in the day from triple-A Buffalo, relieved Johnson and gave up a leadoff single to Jackson.
With tension already high after the Rasmus slide, Redmond then hit Hunter just below the shoulder. The veteran right-fielder had a few choice words for the Toronto hurler and the benches and bullpens emptied.
No punches were thrown and Hunter eventually walked down to first base. Hunter said his outburst was nothing against Redmond, he was just emotional because his teammate had been injured a few minutes earlier.
"You take away somebody like that who's very important to our ball club, I'm upset," Hunter said. "You take out a guy dirty like that, I'm upset. The lateness of his slide, the spikes were high.
"It was all wrong."
Redmond got out of the jam when Miguel Cabrera lined out into a double play and Fielder struck out.
The Blue Jays got on the board in the bottom of the sixth inning. Jose Reyes led off with a single and moved to second on a Bautista single.
After an Adam Lind strikeout, Rasmus drove Reyes in with a single to right field. Rajai Davis struck out and Maicer Izturis drove in Bautista with a single to left.
Scherzer was pulled after giving up a one-out single to Bonifacio in the seventh inning. Bruce Rondon came on in relief and got Reyes to pop up and Bautista to hit into a forceout.
Redmond, who is expected to get a start on Sunday, allowed only one hit over three shutout innings. Toronto reliever Dustin McGowan struck out the side in the ninth.
Joaquin Benoit picked up the final three outs for the Tigers.
Notes: X-rays on Infante's leg were negative. He suffered a shin contusion and will be re-evaluated Thursday. ... Blue Jays slugger Edwin Encarnacion was given a third straight day off to rest his sore left hamstring. He remains day to day. ... DeRosa's triple was his first since Sept. 18, 2009 when he was with the St. Louis Cardinals. ... Toronto outhit Detroit 9-8. ... Rock legend Alice Cooper threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... The game took three hours 11 minutes to play. ... Announced attendance was 28,958. ... Rondon hit 100 m.p.h. on the radar gun with his first pitch of the game. ... Toronto's Esmil Rogers (3-3) is scheduled to start the series finale against Justin Verlander (8-5). ... The Blue Jays will close out their seven-game homestand with a weekend series against the Minnesota Twins.Suggest a correction