Tigers 3, Pirates 2: When Justin Verlander needed help, who stepped up? Bet you didn't say "Delmon Young"

PITTSBURGH, PA - JUNE 24: Quintin Berry #52 and Alex Avila #13 of the Detroit Tigers congratulate their teammate who hit the game winning single to score Berry in the 8th inning against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the interleague game on June 24, 2012 at PNC Park in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)


Final - 6.24.2012 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit Tigers 2 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 3 7 0
Pittsburgh Pirates 0 0 0 0 0 0 2 0 0 2 5 0
WP: Justin Verlander (8 - 4)
LP: Chris Resop (0 - 3)

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Behind a complete game from Justin Verlander and an 8th inning RBI single from Delmon Young, the Detroit Tigers hung on to beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 3-2. Verlander (8-4) tossed his major league leading 4th complete game of the season to nail down the win. Chris Resop took the loss in relief of Kevin Correia, dropping to 0-3 on the year. Quintin Berry homered and scored twice for the Tigers. Garrett Jones supplied all the Pirates' offense with a 2 run home run.

After losing the first 2 games of the series thanks to a complete lack of offense, the Tigers needed a fast start...and got it, courtesy of fan favorite Berry.

Austin Jackson lead off the game with a single, setting the stage for Berry. He broke out Ramon Santiago's patented "sneaky power," muscling up to take Correia out of the park for his first big league home run. The no-doubt shot landing halfway up the right field stands gave the Tigers a 2-0 lead. With Verlander on the mound, it was hoped it would be all the offense the Tigers needed.

The last time Verlander faced the Pirates, they were no hit for 8 1/3 innings. They weren't going to risk such embarrassment today. Lead off man Alex Presley likely broke a handful of unwritten baseball rules by bunting for a base hit. Tigers fans all over the web yelled, "That was a (expletive deleted) move!" The Pirates then showed how ridiculous NL style baseball really is by having number 2 hitter Josh Harrison lay down a bunt as well. He popped up to Miguel Cabrera. With that silliness over, the Tigers' ace then entered beast mode for 6 innings.

Remember 2 paragraphs up when I mentioned the Tigers' offense got off to a "fast start?" Turned out to be wishful thinking. Once Berry went yard, the offense went back into hibernation. The Tigers did manage to advance a runner to 2nd base in the 3rd and 5th innings, just to leave him stranded. Jackson being thrown out stealing kneecapped a possible 3rd inning rally before it could even start, while Ryan Raburn was left stranded in the 5th when Jackson and Berry struck out.

Thankfully, a dominant Verlander was rolling. The only hits he allowed were the (expletive deleted) lead off bunt single and a 3rd inning Michael McHenry swinging bunt which fell for an infield hit. Combined, the 2 base hits might have gone 90 feet total.

But the Tigers continued to struggle mightily at the plate against Corriea (6 IP, 2 H, 2 R), meaning Verlander was working without a net. Even the best need a small margin for error.

In the 7th inning, it turned out the missing safety net was needed. Pedro Alvarez smoked a 1 out single. Then came a shocking development. Verlander threw a hanging change up which sat over the fat part of the plate. Jones launched the mistake pitch into the right center field seats to tie the game at 2 all. Talk about a gut punch no one saw coming. A visibly stunned Verlander allowed another single, but got out of the inning on a 5-4-3 double play. Yet the damage was done.

If the Tigers' offense knew what the term "run support" meant, one mistake wouldn't have made such a huge difference in the tone of the game. It went from "We got this" to "Oh #@$#%$%^ how are they going to blow this one?"

With Tigers fans in the dumps after Verlander's misstep, someone, anyone needed to step up. Who else but...Delmon Young? Yes, THAT Delmon Young, with a big assist from Berry.

In top of the 8th, Berry worked a 1 out walk, then stole 2nd. With 1st base open, the Pirates elected to walk Prince Fielder in order to face Young. Who wouldn't? Expecting the worst, Young surprised every Tigers fan on the planet by slapping a single to right, Berry racing home with the lead run. Fielder got himself caught in a rundown to make sure Berry scored (doesn't he know Berry is kinda speedy?) to end the inning, but the Tigers had regained the lead.

Lead in hand, Verlander still needed to get 6 more outs. Not a done deal, the Pirates weren't going down meekly. With 2 outs in the 8th, the unthinkable almost happened. The light hitting Harrison got all of a Verlander breaking ball. You could hear groans all over Tigers Nation, belieiving the game was soon to be tied. But what looked to be a home run at the crack of the bat...wasn't. Raburn made a nice leaping catch at the base of the wall to end the inning. I had to physically remove my heart from my throat once the ball was caught.

With a short bullpen, Jim Leyland sent Verlander out for the 9th. Leading off, Andrew McCutchen gave the Pirates fans a moment of #FalseHope, flying out to the edge of the warning track in right. Verlander proceeded to kill off any remaining hope, striking out Casey McGehee and Alverez, ending the game in style.

Thanks to the heroics of Verlander, Berry and Young, the Tigers managed to salvage 1 game of the weekend series. The win raised their record to 35-37, 3 games behind the 1st place Cleveland Indians, only 1/2 game back of the Chicago White Sox.

Yes, the Tigers are scuffling. That's bad. They are only 3 games out of 1st place in late June. That's good! Plenty of fan bases would love to be in the Tigers' situation.

When all is said and done, injuries and slumps factored in, the Tigers are fine, at least in the standings. 3 games back in June is nothing. Unfortunately, the offense has also been nothing for much of the season, which is why the Tigers are also lucky to be only 3 games out.

To say I'm torn over the Tiger's chances in 2012 in an understatement. The Central division is winnable, without question. But can the Tigers win the Central with such an inconsistent offense? That's a question I can't yet answer.

Bullets:

  • Meaningless Verlander stat of the day: Verlander's 6 plus inning start streak reached 58 games. That's tied with The Big Train, Walter Johnson, for the 4th longest streak since 1918. As always, tip o' the cap goes to Lee Panas of Tiger Tales for the stat. If you aren't following him on Twitter...why not?
  • More Verlander: According to the Oakland Press' Matthew B. Mowery, going into today, Verlander ranked No. 108 in MLB in run support per 9 (4.32). After today, he's even lower on the list.
  • Lots more Verlander: Verlander's 4 complete games is a new career high.
  • Leyland on Verlander going 9 innings: "It was Justin's game."
  • Verlander's final line: 9 IP, 5 H, 2 ER, 1 BB, 7 K, 117 P, 2,52 ERA, 0.97 WHIP.
  • The Tigers' knack for hitting long warning track flies continued. Both Jhonny Peralta and Cabrera hit big flies which died at the warning track. I'm convinced the Baseball Gods hate us.
  • The Tigers had 7 hits, which is nothing to brag about. Thing is, they had all of 8 hits in the first 2 games of the series, so 7 hits may be worth bragging about.
  • A win is great, but the Tigers' offense is still lost in the weeds.

3 ROARS:

Justin Verlander: With a worn out bullpen and a 3 game losing streak, the Tigers both wanted and needed Verlander to pitch deep into thew game and get a W. Check and mark.

Quintin Berry: He's making plays, something very few Tigers can say at the moment. He also knows how to do a home run trot with style, despite never hitting one in the bigs before today.

Delmon Young: Tigers fans had absolutely no faith in Young coming through in the 8th. So give the man his props for winning the game!

3 HISSES:

Justin Verlander (at the plate): Remains 0 for his career. Though his fly ball to semi-deep right in the 7th was hit hard. Hope remains alive Verlander will someday, someway, get a base hit.

Alex Avila: Despite spending 2 weeks on the disabled list, Avila appears to be moving with all the agility of someone 70 years his senior. Catching is known to shorten careers, and the position already looks to be taking a toll on Avila.

Jhonny Peralta: An 0-4 day is very hissable.

GAME 71 PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Pitching 6 solid innings while dealing with immensely difficult family issues made Max Scherzer PotG with 76%. We're pulling for you, Max.

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