|Final - 8.22.2011||1||2||3||4||5||6||7||8||9||R||H||E|
|Tampa Bay Rays||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||1||2||6||0|
|WP: Justin Verlander (19 - 5)
LP: Jeff Niemann (8 - 5)
5.5 -- The Tigers have their biggest lead in the division this year. Chicago and Cleveland are now tied, by the way.
1 R, 3H, 7 IP -- Justin Verlander again looked like his pitch count was getting a bit high, but he bridged the gap to the late innings and worked his way through several situations that would scare you if anyone but Verlander were on the mound. Also: That run he gave up was to the leadoff batter, Matt Joyce
Man, 5.5 games up in the division certainly feels cozier than the 1.5 games the Tigers led by just four days ago. For the past six weeks we've been waiting for the team to take the bull by the horns, and it certainly did. Detroit is now 11 games over .500 as well, a season high.
Still, the quicker the Tigers get through this series, the better. It's not like the Rays sneak up on you. They're a good team with a good rotation. They can't sneak up. But the series was four games sandwiched between an emotional series with the Indians and a trip to Minnesota. it's probably the hardest team left on Detroit's schedule. Getting out of town at 2-2 would certainly be good for the Tigers.
Thankfully, Justin Verlander took the mound today rather than Sunday. That meant Detroit had a great opportunity to start the series on the right foot. Even though they trailed 1-0 after Matt Joyce homered for Tampa Bay to lead off the bottom of the first, you could feel pretty secure in the knowledge JV would give his team a chance to win. Well, he didn't allow another run and pitched seven innings. Wins may be an over-rated stat, but Verlander certainly earned his.
Meanwhile Alex Avila has really earned a day off. Hopefully he gets it before October. Avila gave Detroit the 2-1 lead with a home run in the second -- his 15th of the year. Then he gave us all a good scare in the bottom half of the inning when he took a baseball off his neck while catching. But of course, being Alex Avila that was no big deal. He stayed in the game like nothing happened. A baseball to the neck. The man is not human.
Finally, I wasn't real keen on Jose Valverde pitching in the ninth in a non-save situation. But he was already warmed up, so I'm not surprised. Blame Don Kelly for hitting a home run in the top of the ninth and making it a four-run lead. But due to the decision and Valverde's ineffectiveness, he won't pitch Tuesday. Neither will Joaquin Benoit.
But Victor Martinez (scratched late for back spasms) should be able to play.
I'll be out of town the rest of the week enjoying a little camping respite on the beach. (Think sunny weather thoughts, thanks.) Big Al, Alli, Rob and the gang will keep you up to date while I'm gone.