Tigers 6, Twins 4: Verlander, Cabrera overcome shaky bullpen as Tigers take 2 game division lead

Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

Tigers topped Twins 6-4, but it wasn't easy. Justin Verlander won his 17th game, Miguel Cabrera hit his 43rd home run, yet the Tigers had to hold on late as a troublesome bullpen nearly gave away a 6 run 8th inning lead.


Final - 9.29.2012 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit Tigers 0 2 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 6 8 1
Minnesota Twins 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 0 4 6 1
WP: Justin Verlander (17 - 8)
SV: Jose Valverde (33)
LP: P.J. Walters (2 - 5)

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Justin Verlander allowed 1 run in 7 innings, Miguel Cabrera hit his 43rd home run of the season and Jose Valverde nailed down his 33rd save as the Detroit Tigers held on to beat the Minnesota Twins 6-4. The victory, combined with the Chicago White Sox's 10-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, gives the Tigers a 2 game lead in the AL Central with 4 games remaining.

In his final start of the regular season, Verlander was credited with his 17th win. Twins starter P.J. Walters allowed a pair of runs in 5 innings to become the pitcher of record, recording his 5th loss.

Ryan Doumit accounted for all 4 Twins runs with his 18th home run, an 8th inning grand slam. Prince Fielder hit his 29th home run of the season for the Tigers, Andy Dirks also going deep for the 8th time in 2012.

Cabrera's 8th inning 3 run shot tied him with Josh Hamilton for the AL home run lead at 43. He now tops the AL in each Triple Crown category.

Taking advantage of the shadows caused by the late afternoon, FOX mandated, start time, the 1st inning was quick and painless for both Walters and Verlander, each setting down the side in order. Walters won in pitch count, 11-12. But a 12 pitch inning for Verlander was a very good sign.

It was a tale of first pitch swinging to start the 2nd. Seeing a first pitch meatball in the hot zone, Fielder clubbed his 29th home run of the season, the ball clearing the 411 mark in center field, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead. Delmon Young, first pitch swinging, fouled out to Justin Morneau.

Actually taking a few pitches, Andy Dirks reached on an infield single, 2nd baseman Jamey Carroll making a diving stop, but had no play. Slumping Jhonny Peralta followed by lining a 2-1 pitch into the left field corner. Dirks scored without drawing a throw, the Tigers now up 2-0.

1st base open, last night's almost-a-hero, Omar Infante, worked a base on balls (considering his abysmal .286 OBP since joining the Tigers, a walk was the last thing I expected). With ducks on the pond, Jackson ended the inning by hitting a Walters' pitch on the screws, but his liner was run down by Ben Revere on the right field warning track.

Verlander was keeping his fastball in the low-mid 90's The 2nd inning went as smoothly as the 1st, needed only 14 pitches to send the side down in order, including strike outs of Morneau and Chris Parmelee,

After getting rocked for 2 runs, Walters settled down in the 3rd. He set the Tigers down in order, including striking out Miguel Cabrera for the 2nd time. Fielder was having no such trouble with Walters, but his 2 out rocket was hit directly at Morneau for the 3rd out.

Speaking of being rocked, Verlander was doing the rocking, allowing only 1 base runner through 3 innings. Pedro Florimon walked with 2 out in the 3rd, but was left stranded on a Denard Span fly out.

Young swung on top of a Walters'...well, something, as FOX had their camera on Doug Fister instead of the diamond, and reached base on Trevor Plouffe's throwing error to open the 4th. The Tigers could do no more with Walters, this time getting out of the inning despite another hard hit ball, Parmalee hauling in Alex Avila's warning track drive.

Revere ended any talk of a Verlander no-hitter, singling to lead off the bottom of the 4th. Revere moved into scoring position by stealing 2nd, his 39th base of the season. 1st base now open, Verlander walked Joe Mauer.

Verlander then entered Beast Mode.

Morneau struck out on a 99 MPH fastball. Doumit did the same, but taking a seat on a low in the zone breaking ball. Cranking up the heat, Verlander hit 100 MPH on Parmalee, then broke his knees with an 83 MPH curve, striking out the side.

After 2 were down, Quintin Berry put himself in scoring position in the top of the 5th by singling, then stealing his 21st base of the season. But Cabrera, apparently having major issues picking up the ball from the shadows, flew out to Revere to end the inning, the Tigers clinging to a 2-0 lead.

Plouffe swung at Verlander first pitch of the bottom of the inning, lining a double into the left field corner. But Fielder nabbed Carroll's liner on the short hop, smartly firing to Cabrera, catching Plouffe in a run down. Cabrera would outrun Plouffe to 2nd, laying on the tag. For those scoring at home, it was a 3-5 fielder's choice. Carroll advanced to 2nd on a ground out, but Span grounded out 4-3, Verlander deftly pitching out of trouble in a 6 pitch inning.

Ron Gardenhire pulled a quite effective Walters after 5 innings, Brian Duensing taking over. The middle man didn't miss a beat, the Tigers going down in order for the 3rd time.

Leading off the bottom of the 6th, Revere was badly fooled on a Verlander change, but the speedy outfielder was able to convert a swinging bunt into an infield single. The Twins called a hit and run with a 3-2 count on Mauer, but he didn't get around on Verlander's97 MPH fastball, sending a can of corn to Berry for the 1st out. Morneau swung through another 97 MPH fastball for out number 2, Doumit grounding weakly to Fielder for out number 3.

But the Tigers continued to make things far too easy for Twins' pitching, their offense having gone dormant after the 2 run 2nd. Slumping Jhonny Peralta led off the 7th, sending a one-hopper to short for the 1st out. Avila grounded a 0-2 pitch to Morneau for the unassisted 2nd out, which also ended Duensing's stint. Replaced by Alex Burnett, Infante grounded out 5-3 to end the inning far too quickly.

Veralnder started the 7th at 94 pitches, so you had to wonder how much longer Jim Leyland wouild stick with his ace. It wouldn't be long enough.

Parmalee singled to start the 7th, the 4th straight inning the Twins' put on their lead off man. Plouffe hit a slow roller to 2nd, Infante went to Slumping Jhonny Peralta for the force, but Parmalee's hard slide allowed Plouffe to beat the relay. I wouldn't give the Tigers much grief on getting only 1 put as the ball was not hit at all hard.

No GIDP? No problem for Verlander. Carroll lined to Jackson for the 2nd out, Florimon waving at...you guessed it...a 97 MPH fastball for the 3rd out. Verlander was doing his damnedest to make sure a narrow 2 run lead held up.

Jackson led off the 8th by lining a single to right off Burnett. Going by his dusty, moldy managerial how-to book, Leyland had Berry squaring up to bunt. Jackson made the bunt semi-moot, swiping 2nd for his 12th stolen base of the season. Burnett made the bunt completely moot, walking Berry on 5 pitches. Walking a batter who is obviously sacrificing is a pitching Cardinal sin. An unhappy Gardenhire leaped out of the dugout to pull Burnett.

Casey Fien took the mound to face the mighty Cabrera.The shadows no longer a factor, Cabrera swung at Fein's first pitch and smashed a frozen rope over the wall in left for a huge, Huge, HUGE 3 run home run. The homer extended the Tigers' lead to 5-0, and raised Cabrera back into leadership position every Triple Crown category at .327/43/136.

Dirks made it a 6-0 game by necking his 8th home run of the season over the high wall in right. What had been a nail-biter of a game had become, well, no longer a nail-biter in the blink of an eye.

Verlander started the bottom of the 8th at 111 pitches. His day was over at 116 after Slumping Jhonny Peralta threw away what should have been a 6-3 put out of Span. The always annoying Span was safe on the throwing error, the Twins putting their lead off man on for the 5th straight inning.

Words fail me, on both Slumping Jhonny Peralta's ridiculous error and Jim Leyland pulling a brilliant Verlander.

Joaquin Benoit entered the game in place of the Ace. Revere hit a comebacker for the 1st out, Span taking 2nd. Pitching far too carefully, trying to nibble at the corners, Benoit walked Mauer and Morneau to load the bases.

You could hear the cries of "THROW STRIKES DAMMIT!" all over Tigers nation. Even Tigers' radio play-by-plan man Dan Dickerson dropped a "Jeez-oh-Petes" on air.

Last night's hero, Doumit, came to the plate. Again, Benoit fell behind in the count. Then...disaster.

Doumit drilled an opposite field, no-doubt grand slam to left. What had been a 6-0 lead had been thrown away in 4 batters by a completely ineffective Benoit.

With that swing, Benoit was toast, pulled by Leyland.

Al Alburquerque came on to do what Benoit couldn't. Get out of the 8th.

Al-Al struck out Parmalee for the 2nd out. But Plouffe singled and was (GAK!) balked to 2nd. On a 3-2 pitch to Carroll, Alburquerque's slider was in the dirt. Carroll checked his swing, a called ball 4. But Avila threw to 1st base anyway, allowing Plouffe to advance to 3rd.

At this point, FOX cut to Verlander taking refuge in the tunnel, probably looking for something he could smash into pieces.

But unlike Benoit, Alburquerque adverted disaster. He struck out Florimon on, what else, a wicked slider to end what was a horrific inning for the bullpen. (3 walks, 1 grand slam, a balk. single, 4 runs). A fired up Alburquerque bounced off the mound, pounding his glove on the swing and miss.

Luis Perdomo started the 9th for the Twins. Infante singled with 1 out, stole 2nd after 2 were down. Knowing the mighty Cabrera was looming on deck, Perdomo took care of business by striking out Berry, ending the minor threat.

An insurance run would have been nice, being it was time for the Big Potato. The White Sox were down 10-4 in the 8th inning of their game with the Rays as Jose Valverde took the mound, Meaning a save almost assuredly meant the Tigers would lead the Central by 2 games with 4 to play.

Commence holding breath...NOW.

What's a Valverde appearance without allowing a base runner? Extremely rare. Of course, Papa Grande walked the lead off man, Span. Make it 6 consecutive innings the Twins' lead off man reached.

On a hit and run, Revere hit a hard line drive directly at Berry for the 1st out. He had a chance to double off Span, but his throw was well off line.

Mauer came to the plate as the tying run. Potato immediately fell behind in the count, 2-0. But Mauer would get underneath a 2-1 Valverde fastball, sending it to medium center for out number 2. As Morneau faced Potato (and Tiger Killer Dounit stood on deck) Span took 2nd on defensive indifference.

But just as Mauer did, Morneau took a big swing underneath Potato's fastball, lifting a game ending can of corn to Jackson for the final out.

At almost the same moment, the Rays defeated the Pale Hose.

EVERYBODY EXHALE.

Game over!

Cue Potato dancing!

2 game lead with 4 left!

Jebus, the game shouldn't have been that damn nerve wracking. Regardless, you can put away your defibrillators for another day as a division title is well within reach.

BULLETS:

Bullets are brought to you by Justin Verlander's kung-fu curve ball grip:

Jv_grip_medium

  • The Tigers are 85-73 and hold a 2 game lead over the White Sox with 4 games remaining. The Tigers' magic number is 3.
  • The Pale Hose are 3-9 since beating the Tigers on September 17th. Even as the White Sox crash and burn, the Tigers had to do their part, and have with an 8-4 record.
  • P.J. Walters had made 4 September starts since coming off the DL, and has been less than impressive at 0-2, 6.75. But his last start was part of last Sunday's infamous twin-bill sweep. Walters allowed only 1 run and 5 hits in 6 innings, not getting a decision in the Twins' 2-1 victory. He was just almost as good today, pitching 5 innings, allowing 2 runs on 4 hits.
  • FOX play-by-play man Daron Sutton's word of the day was "slurve."
  • Tom Verducci on Justin Verlander: "Pitch counts don't apply to him." Not till he's pushing 130, anyway.
  • Sutton on Verlander: "His legs are tree trunks." No comment.
  • All I can say about Verlander in striking out the final 3 batters of the 4th with a variety of wicked pitches is, "It just wasn't fair." Then again, who said baseball was fair?
  • Quintin Berry is still perfect in stealing bases, 21-21.
  • FOX stat of the game: The Tigers' bullpen has a 5.44 ERA, doled out 21 walks, allowed 29 earned runs in 48 innings over the past 14 games. Ewww.
  • Joaquin Benoit has allowed 14 home runs this season and 10 since the All-Star break. He's also given up 10 runs in his last 8 innings. Why was Verlander pulled again?
  • Jim Leyland: "When you look at the scoreboard and see the White Sox are gonna lose, that’s a game (we’ve) gotta win."

MIGUEL CABRERA TRIPLE CROWN WATCH:

Triple Crown standings as of 4 PM this afternoon:

Batting average - .327: Last night Cabrera had 2 hits while 2nd place Joe Mauer, now hitting .322, was 0-2..
Home runs - 42: Josh Hamilton heads the pack at 43, Cabrera remains tied for 2nd with Edwin Encarnacion.
RBI - 133: Cabrera has relatively comfortable 8 RBI buffer over Hamilton.

  • 1st inning: Strikeout swinging, .327.
  • 3rd inning: Strikeout swinging: .326.
  • 5th inning: FO-9, .326.
  • 8th inning: 3 run home run to left, 43rd HR, 136 RBI, .327. BA.

Cabrera appears to have safe leads in the AL batting average and RBI races. The MVP Candidate is holding off fellow MVP candidate, Wonderboy Mike Trout, .326 -.321 in average (Mauer dropped to .320, the Tigers holding him hitless), and has a stranglehold on the RBI crown, a nearly insurmountable 136 - 125 lead over Hamilton.

The home run race looks to be the only one in question. Cabrera and Hamilton are tied at 43, Edwin Encarnacion lurking with 42.

For the first time in 45 years, there may be a Triple Crown winner.

SCREEN CAPS:

Yep, that ball is gone...

It_gone_medium

Living the good life of major league ball players, Don Kelly and Max Scherzer mulled over Verlander's performance while lounging along the dugout fence.

Kelly_scherzer_medium

Just like the fan base, Verlander couldn't bare to watch the bullpen hijinks and shenanigans in the 8th.

Jv_cant_watch_medium

3 ROARS:

Justin Verlander: Barring, God forbid, a game 163, the Tigers' ace made his final statement for the Cy Young. 7 innings, 4 hits, 1 run, 0 earned, 2 walks, 8 strikeouts.

Miguel Cabrera: The Tigers' MVP candidate had been scuffling along for 3 at bats, then exploded with a 3 run bomb to give the Tigers some badly needed insurance runs. Let's not forget the big fly gave Cabrera the AL lead in the Triple Crown categories.

Andy Dirks: Played a big part in in both rallies with 2 hits, 2 runs scored and an RBI.

BONUS ROAR:

Al Alburquerque: Wasn't a pretty performance by any means, but he did what Benoit couldn't. Get out of the 8th inning without allowing a run.

3 HISSES:

Joaquin Benoit: Threw away all 4 runs the Tigers scored in the top of the 8th, putting the Twins right back in the game.

Delmon Young: No patience at the plate leads to an 0-4 day.

Slumping Jhonny Peralta: Yes, he had an RBI hit. But his brutal 8th inning throwing error set off a string of events which nearly ended in an apocalypse.

GAME 157 PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Pitching in place of an injured Max Scherzer, rookie Drew Smily tossed a brilliant 5 1/3 shutout innings. He deserved a better fate than a no-decision, but received BYB PotG honors as a consolation prize.

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