The Cleveland Indians knocked Justin Verlander out of the game after five innings in a 7-6 win over the Detroit Tigers. With the victory, the Indians are tied for second place in the AL Central with the Royals, pulling to within one game of the first place Tigers.
A resurgent Ubaldo Jimenez (3-2) won his third consecutive start, allowing just one run, walking one while striking out eight over six innings.
Struggling with his command, especially the fastball, Verlander (4-3) took the loss, giving up four runs, three earned, on six hits and five walks, striking out seven.
The Indians' attack was led by Asdrubal Cabrera's two hits and two RBI. Michael Bourn added two hits and two runs scored. Jhonny Peralta homered for the Tigers, Omar Infante added two hits and two RBI.
In a game between a former ace and a current ace who knew roles would be reversed? That was the story tonight, Jimenez outpitched Verlander.
It was an uncharacteristic first inning for Verlander, the Indians getting their first two batters on base, then taking an early lead. Bourn led off with a single, old school Tiger Killer Jason Kipnis walking on a 3-2 pitch.
Runners on the corners after Cabrera bounced into a 4-6 fielder's choice, newly minted Tiger Killer Nick Swisher doubled into the right field corner to score Bourn. Cabrera held at third, runners now in scoring position for .354 hitting Carlos Santana.
Verlander walked Santana to load the bases with one out, his pitch count already over 20. Lack of command becoming a major issue, Verlander walked Jason Giambi (the third of the inning) to drive in the Tribe's second run.
Verlander managed to get out of trouble, striking out Mark Reynolds and Michael Brantley flying out to left. The Indians left the bases loaded, feeling as if they left runs on the table despite their 2-0 lead. Verlander needed 35 pitches to get through the inning as rain fell at Comerica.
Meanwhile, Jimenez needed a mere 11 pitches to retire the Tigers in order in the bottom half of the inning.
The first inning was baseball bizarro world. Verlander walked three, Jimenez none, black is white, up is down, cats and dogs are living together, and...
THIS IS EXACTLY LIKE THAT CRAPPY MOVIE WITH LINDSAY LOHAN AND JAMIE LEE CURTIS WHERE THEY SWITCHED BODIES EXCEPT EVEN WORSE— Detroit4lyfe (@Detroit4lyfeRob) May 11, 2013
Verlander got the first two Indians he faced before more trouble brewed. Kipnis singled with two out, then raced all the way home on Cabrera's double to right. Kipnis was able to beat a good relay with a head first slide, snaking his hand past Alex Avila. Cabrera advanced to third on the throw.
A struggling Verlander walked Swisher, the fourth of the game, as Drew Smyly started warming up in the bullpen. Verlander got out of the inning on a Santana ground out, but the Tribe now held a 3-0 lead.
Jimenez had held the Tigers without a hit or run through two innings. One swing of Peratla's bat leading off the third ended both streaks, yanking Jimenez's change-up into the left field bullpens. His third homer run of the season made it a 3-1 game.(MLB.com video)
Realizing the Tribe had been teeing off on his fastball, a junk-balling Verlander had his first 1-2-3 inning of the night in the fourth. He also had a pitch count of 90, meaning the bullpen would be needed.
The Tigers threatened in the fourth, Miguel Cabrera singling, taking third on Prince Fielder's opposite field double. But Jimenez pitched out of the jam unscathed. The runners were left stranded when Victor Martinez grounded out to first and Andy Dirks struck out swinging on a shoulder high fastball.
Defensive hijinks cost the Tigers a run in the fifth inning after Verlander walked the lead off man, Swisher. Fielder scooped up Santana's ground ball, stepped on first for the out and fired to second. Swisher stopped running and was caught in a rundown. But Cabrera, who had been covering second, threw wildly to Verlander covering first. Instead of bases empty and two out, Swisher was standing on second with one out.
The error would come back to haunt the Tigers when Reynolds' two out RBI single (on a fastball, natch) plated Swisher, giving the Indians a 4-1 lead.
Brantley ended the inning on a ground ball, ending Verlander's tough night. The final line was an un-Verlander-likle five innings, six hits, four runs, three earned, five walks, seven strikeouts and 110 pitches.
Peralta led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a walk, and stole second as the Tigers decided to strike out on pitches crazy far out of the strike zone. Avila was out swinging on a pitch which bounced to the plate. Infante was the second out, swinging at a forehead high third strike.
As Jackson was battling back from 0-2 to 3-2, Peralta advanced to third on a wild pitch. Which is where he would be stranded, as Jackson, unlike Avila and Infante, was called out looking on a borderline pitch. It was Jimenez's eighth punch out of the night, versus just one base on balls.
Drew Smyly took over for Verlander in the sixth. He couldn't keep the Indians off the scoreboard either. Bourn singled with one out, stole second and scored on Cabrera's two out single to make it 5-1 Tribe.
After Reynolds and Brantley reached with two out in the seventh, Leyland yanked Smyly for Al Alburquerque. The doom filled evening continued when pinch hitter Mike Aviles singled, pushing the Indians' lead to 6-1.
Jimenez was given a seat after six innings, Terry Francona replacing him with lefty Nick Hagadone. Thank goodness, as the Tigers' offense stirred. Martinez led off by lashing a double to left. Hagadone made more trouble for himself, loading the bases by walking Matt Tuiasosopo (pinch hitting for Dirks) on four pitches and Peralta on a 3-2 pitch.
Allen's second pitch sailed to the backstop, but thanks to Martinez being the runner on third, nothing came of it other than ball two. The count 3-0, Pena hit the ball hard, but the line drive was right at Bourn in center. The sacrifice fly scored Martinez, the Indians lead cut to 6-2.
Infante woke up the crowd and cleared the bases when his fly ball found the gap in right center, rolling all the way to scoreboard. The two RBI stand up triple made it a far more interesting 6-4 game.
Jackson's RBI ground out plated Infante, wrapping up a four run rally. The Tigers trailed 6-5 after seven innings.
Unfortunately, the Tigers bullpen was as good as the Indians.Not very.
Alburquerque walked the lead off man, Kipnis. Cabrera followed with a single. He struck out Swisher, but Santana's swinging bunt landed in no man's land for an infield single, loading the bases.
Jason Giambi was looking for a pitch he could lift from Alburquerque, and got it. His sacrifice fly giving the *Indians an insurance run, their lead now 7-5.
Alburquerque reloaded the bases when he walked Reynolds on a pitch which looked for all the world to be strike two. Needing to keep the Tribe within shouting distance, Leyland finally made the call for Darin Downs, pulling a wild Alburquerque.
Downs needed only one pitch to get out of the inning, Brantley bouncing to Peralta, keeping damage to a bare minimum.
Set up man Joe Smith started the bottom of the eighth for the Indians. After setting down Cabrera on a fly to deep right, Smith drilled Fielder on the inside of his left knee with a breaking ball. In a good deal of pain, Fielder staggered-danced-hobbled all the way to the mound holding his thigh before gimping to first base.
Martinez reached in less spectacular fashion, drawing a standard walk, Don Kelly pinch running.
Before it could get started, the rally died an early death. Tuiasosopo bounced into a 4-6-3 double play to bail out Smith.
Down tossed a 1-2-3 ninth, giving the Tigers' offense one last chance against Indians closer Chris Perez.
There would be no ninth inning comeback tonight, though the Tigers damn near pulled one off.
The Tigers had a brief glimpse of hope after one was down when Swisher just plain dropped Aviles' throw to first base, Pena safe on the E-3.
Hope remained alive when Infante ripped a single to left, two one with one out with Jackson at the plate.
In the play that was the difference in the game, Tiger Killer Kipnis likely saved a run and got the second out, making a marvelous stop to force Infante at second. Going far to his right to grab Jackson's ground ball up the middle, he then flipped the ball behind his back to Cabrera covering the bag for the force.
But Hunter made things verrrrry interesting with an RBI single to right to score Pena.
Runners on first and second, Cabrera at the plate and the score now 7-6 Indians ... well, a game winning hit was not to be. Perez was able to get the final out on a Cabrera's slow roller to third.
An excruciating game over, not well pitched (save for Jimenez and Downs) by either side.
The Tigers drop to 20-14 on the season, holding on to first place by a game over the Royals ... and now the Indians as well.
The Tribe continue to roll, having won10-of-12, raising their record to 19-15, a game back of the Tigers in the Central.
In the rubber game of the three game series, the Indians send right-hander Zach McAllister (3-3, 2.63 ERA) to the mound. The Tigers counter with Rick Porcello (1-2, 7.52 ERA), coming off two straight quality starts. First pitch at Comerica Park is 1:08 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
We saw something quite rare from Justin Verlander in the first inning, runs allowed and a bases loaded walk. Verlander and had allowed a first inning run in seven previous starts. As for the bases loaded walk?
3rd career bases-loaded walk for Verlander. He had one last year and one in 2007.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) May 11, 2013
So what was up with Verlander tonight? Mystery solved. The wrong Justin was on the mound.
Jhonny Peralta's third inning home run extended his hitting streak to ten games. The Tigers' shortstop has quietly put together an excellent season at the plate.
Peralta came into the game leading all AL shortstops in BA (.323) and hits (40), and was 3rd in RBI (16). #Tigers— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) May 12, 2013
Miguel Cabrera's hitting streak reached ten games with a fourth inning single.
Verlander avoided Jim Leyland's "Handshake of Doom" entering the dugout after the fifth. So he received something else from Leyland confirming his game was over instead.
JV tried to duck the Handshake of Doom by keeping his glove in his right hand, so he got the Ass Pat of Doom instead.— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) May 12, 2013
Verlander had a five walk game for only th ethird time in his career. The first occurred in June 2007. The other was in in this 2010 game which had another statistical anomaly:
First time since 8/17/2010 that Verlander has thrown 110 pitches in a game without pitching into 6th inning.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) May 12, 2013
Tonight was also just the third time since 2010 Verlander did not last beyond thge fifth inning. The last time he only went five inning when he was the winning pitcher on Opening Day. Previous to that was the game which ended his six inning start streak, the rain shortened game in Boston last July
And finally, inefficient Verlander of doom:
Verlander's worst innings (by pitch count) this season: 35 (today), 33 (2nd vs. MIN), 31 (4th vs. OAK), 28 (7th vs. SEA), 26 (1st vs. HOU)— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) May 12, 2013
Shows just how good Verlander has been over the years when a five inning, four run appearance takes on epic fail proportions.
Another pitching streak came to an end in the sixth. Drew Smyly's streak of 15 innings without allowing a run ended on Asdrubal Cabrera's RBI single.
Leyland on Verlande in the post game:
"His control just wasn't good. He was pretty much all over the place with his control"
"That happens to the best of 'em and it happened to the best of 'em tonight."
Omar Infante: Made things very interesting, at least for a few minutes, with his seventh inning two RBI triple.Added a ninth inning single as well.
Jhonny Peralta: Reached base three times, homered and walked twice.
Darin Downs: The only effective pitcher for the Tigers, tossing a 1 1/3 hitless innings.
Justin Verlander: Not so much for his outing, as four runs in five innings ... well, it happens. The hiss is for trying to throw a fastball that he just didn't have in his arsenal tonight, costing him at least a couple of runs. The worst was the fifth inning, two out fastball to Reynolds, which became an RBI single, giving the Indians a 4-1 lead. The Tigers would ultimately lose by a single run.
Drew Smyly and Al Alburquerque: They were nicked for six hits, three walks and three runs, which would come back to haunt the Tigers when their rally fell one run short. Those tacked on runs were daggers to the Tigers' comeback chances.
Jason Kipnis: Tiger Killer to the end, his defensive gem kept the game from going into extra innings.
GAME THREAD ROLL CALL:
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Miguel Cabrera's three hits and three RBI was enough to narrowly beat Max Scherzer and the combined bottom of the order.