Royals 3, Tigers 2: Justin Verlander's quality start wasted as Jose Valverde's woes continue

USA TODAY Sports

Jose Valverde blows his third save of the season in disastrous fashion, leading to the Tigers falling 3-2 to the Royals in ten innings. The Tigers waste a brilliant start by Justin Verlander, who shut out the Royals on three hits over seven innings.

The Detroit Tigers were one strike away from a 2-1 victory over the Kansas City Royals. But Tigers' closer Jose Valverde severed up a two strike, two out, two run home run to Lorenzo Cain, sending the game into extra innings. Eric Hosmer would finished off the Tigers in the tenth, singling off Phil Coke to drive home Miguel Tejada with the game winning run. The Royals beat the Tigers 3-2 in comeback, walk off fashion.

Lost in the late inning dramatics was Justin Verlander's best start in over a month, holding the Royals to no runs and three hits over seven innings. But as has happened far too often as of late, a quality start was turned into a no-decision thanks to a lack of offense and a shaky bullpen. Valverde was tagged with his third blown save, Coke (0-4) credited with the loss.

Royals starter James Shields was almost as good as Verlander, allowing two runs and seven hits over seven innings. But it was the fourth Royals pitcher, closer Greg Holland (2-1), who was the victor, tossing a hitless tenth.

Cain was the obvious hitting hero for the Royals with his game tying home run and two RBI. Tejada added two hits and scored the game winning run, Hosmer two hits and the game winning RBI. Prince Fielder and Brayan Pena each had two hits and an RBI for the losing Tigers.

In the end, it was the same old, same old for the Tigers on the road. A lack of offense leads to wasting a quality start which leads to the bullpen allowing a walk off loss.

The day started pleasantly for the Tigers, no hint of the drama to come. A lead off double by Avisail Garica led to the Tigers taking an early lead off Shields.

Garcia ripped a line drive into the right center field gap for a standup double. With .300 hitting Torii Hunter at the plate, WHAT? BUNT?

Yes, a first inning bunt.

Hunter was asked to sacrifice. At least it went down perfectly, instead of leading to a force, the speed merchant Garcia advancing to third. With first base open, the Royals pitched around Miguel Cabrera, who drew a walk.

Runners on the corners after the free pass, Prince Fielder did what he almost always does after a Cabrera walk - drive in a run. Fielder beat the shift, dropping a flair into short left field for an RBI single. Victor Martinez couldn't come through with a two RBI hit, ending the inning with a 6-4-3 twin killing. But the Tigers had taken a 1-0 lead after half an inning.

Verlander was off to a very good start, allowing just an infield single through three innings. He received a great deal of help from Ramon Santiago in what was a scoreless third. Playing second base today, Santiago made a nice play by charging in on Elliot Johnson's slow roller, making a quick flip to first to nip the runner. He also robbed Alcides Escobar of a single for the second out of the inning, ranging into short center field to make leaping catch.

Shields and Verlander settled into a pitcher's duel, the Tigers taking a 1-0 lead into the fifth.Two Tigers into the inning, the Tigers had stretched their lead to 2-0.

All Matt Tuiasosopo does when he plays is hit. He led off the fifth inning by doubling down the left field line. Ruinner on second and no one out, Brayan Pena wasn't asked to lay one down. Good thing, as he ripped an RBI double over the head of Lorenzo Cain in deep center, Tuiasosopo crossing the plate to make it a 2-0 game.

Now came the bunt.

Considering Santiago is hitting .167 and has no trouble laying down a bunt made it much more palatable than I would normally find a fifth inning sacrifice. But the Tigers couldn't capitalize, Pena was ultimately stranded 90 feet away. The infield in, Garcia bounced out to third. Hunter lined out to center to end the inning, the Shields holding the damage done to a single run.

Verlander finally allowed a second Royals hit in the fifth, Mike Moustakas reaching on a lead off single. He was quickly eliminated when Fielder flicked his glove and grabbed Johnson's line smash to double Moustakas off the bag. Moustakas could only stand there with his hands on his hips as Fielder touched first to turn the unassisted double play.

Top of six, the Tigers threatened against Shields. As has been the norm when on the road, they failed to convert. Fielder dropped in his second Twins Hit of the game with one out, a bloop to left center which fell between three Royals. Jhonny Peralta walked with two down. But Shields struck out Tuiasosopo swinging to keep the Royals within two runs.

Verlander was dinged for only the third time on the day when Salvador Perez dropped a looper over short with two down in the sixth. Verlander ended the inning at 103 pitches, striking out the always dangerous (more so versus Verlander, hitting over .400 for his career) Butler.

Top of seven, the Tigers had a runner reach second with less than two out for the third straight inning. Pena reached for the second straight at bat on a bloop single to short left.

Once again, the bunt.

Sanitago was asked to drop one down, which he did with no drama, Pena advancing to scoring position. Sheilds fell behind Garcia 3-0, before striking him out swinging on a full count breaking ball. The same scenario went down with Hunter at the plate with two down, Sheilds falling behind in the count 3-0 before ending the inning with a 3-2 swinging strike out of Hunter.

Drew Smyly had been warming up in the sixth with Verlander on the mound. Verlander took the mound to start the seventh, Luke Putkonen joined Smyly in the pen. The defensive juggling began as well, Don Kelly taking over in left for Tuiasosopo. There would be no need for help of any kind, Verlander setting the Royals down in order with his eighth strikeout and a pair of easy ground balls.

Another game with the Royals means another appearance by Tim Collins in relief. Sheilds was pulled after seven innings, two runs and seven hits. Making his third consecutive appearance against the Tigers, Collins took over in the eighth, and immediately got into trouble.

Pitching too carefully, Collins went to full counts on Cabrera and Fielder before walking both. There would be no bunt in order this time around with Martinez at the plate. Unfortunately, Martinez swing over a 1-2 breaking ball for the first out.

One down, Ned Yost made the call for Luke Hochevar out of the pen. Hochevar would pitch out of trouble. First pitch swinging, Peralta popped up to short right. Escobar ranged behind the second base bag to take a single away Kelly, turning his ground ball up the middle into a 6-3 putout to end the inning.

After 117 pitches, three hits and no runs, Verlander's day was over. Smyly got the call to start the eighth, 39 year old pinch hitter Miguel Tejada greeted him with a single to right. But Escobar bounced into a tailor made 6-4-3 double play to clear the bases. Alex Gordon bounced out to end the inning.

Now the question was, who pitches the ninth? Smyly or Jose Valverde? Ask the fans, they would want Smyly. Ask Jim Leyland, and you would likely be told Valverde. But both fans and the skipper were in rare agreement today. It was Smyly who took the mound in the ninth.

Turned out Smyly was left in the game to face just one batter. That decision would come back to bite Leyland on the ass.

The left-hand swinging Hosmer took Smyly's first pitch to the opposite field, sending a single to left. Out came Leyland , calling for his closer in a rare situation - with a runner already on base. Considering in a typical appearance Valverde allows a base runner, this was just cutting out the middle man. Considering Smyly is a far better better pitcher than Valverde, it was just asking for trouble.

Perez send a can of corn to right for the first out.

Next was a replay of last night's controversial Butler versus Valverde matchup. The ending was the same, if not the method. Butler swung through a shoulder high full count fastball, striking out.

Then? DISASTER.

Valverde had two outs and an 0-2 count on Lorenzo Cain. One pitch later, the game was tied. Valverde served up a belt high splitter which Cain deposited over the left field fence for a game tying, two run home run as the fan base went into meltdown mode. (and who would blame them?)

After Cabrera booted Lough's ground ball for an E-5, Leyland yanked Valverde for Phil Coke. Coke proceeded to pick off Lough, but Fielder dropped the ball, allowing the runner to advance into scoring position. Moustakas flew out to end a miserable inning, the Tigers having blown their third straight 2-0 lead.

Top of ten, the listless Tigers were retired in order. The gut punch had made rhe game the Royals for the taking.

Take it they did.

Coke allowed a lead off single to Tejada. Escobar sacrificed him to second, Gordon moved him to third with a ground ball.

The game would come to a merciful end when Hosmer bounced a single up the middle.

Game over. Most would hope Valverde's Tigers career was over as well.

The Valverde experiment has been deemed a failure by everyone but the the tigers themselves. You would have to believe they see what we see and are evaluating their options.

But we won't get many answers from Leyland. Why? The media was busy rewritiing their copy because of his closer's failure, which made them a few minutes late for the post game presser, which reportedly pissed him off.

Or he didn't want to face the elephant Big Potato in a room full of inquisitive beat writers and decided the best way to deal with the media's questions was to not take them at all. Apparently all Leyland would do was give a Valverde play-by-play.

Deep analysis from Jim Leyland. For all his talk of liking Valverde as his closer because he "bounces back," I'd prefer a closer who wouldn't have to bounce the Hell back quite so often.

The Tigers lose 2-of-3 to the Royals, falling to 36-28 on the season. Their lead in the Central is at five games over the Cleveland Indians, who play the Texas Rangers tonight. The third place Royals creep a little closer, sitting 5 1/2 back of the Tigers.

Worst of all, we get an off day tomorrow. As we stew over Valverde and their struggles on the road, the Tigers will be traveling to Minnesota in preparation for a three game series. Should be a marvelous 48 hours for a cranky fan base, huh?

OK, DEEP BREATHS EVERYONE. I need to remember the Tigers will, at the very worst, have at least a 4 1/2 game lead after tonight. So things could be worse. Far, far worse.

WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:


Source: FanGraphs

BULLETS:

Time sure flies. On this date in 2007, Justin Verlander no-hit the Milwaukee Brewers. Verlander's first no-no will always remained burned in my memory, being it was the first no-hitter I had ever seen from the opening pitch to final out. There would be no history today, Billy Butler had an infield single leading off the second inning.

Proof Detroit is crazy for the Tigers? A mid-week game against the below .500 Royals got monster TV ratings locally.

Having the second batter of the game lay down a sacrifice bunt led to a mixed reaction in the game thread:

Not a fan of the bunt decision
But it’s fairly defensible facing Shields
Rob Rogacki


Don't like it at all
The 2nd batter of the game?!?
Honeyman

They'd never see it coming
BadCompany22

(Raises hand) I sure as Hell didn't see it coming. In the end, the bunt really didn't make much difference, Avisail Garcia would have scored either way. But damn, this is not the National League!

The reaction wasn't as mixed on Twitter:

Meanwhile, on the radio play-by-play:

Dan and Jim are very depressed about Verlander right now.
They say he most closely resembles 2008 Verlander.
Joaquin on Sunshine

Yeah…just as he waltzes through a 7 pitch first inning.
Michigan&TrumbullinLA

Meanwhile, on Fox Sports Detroit:

Royals right fielder David Lough robbed Miguel Cabrera of an RBI double with a mervelous diving catch just short of the warning track in right center (click picture for GIF goodness).

Aadagca_medium

GIF via the excellent @WorldofIssac

What would have happened if it Jeff Francoeur had been in right?

Prince Fielder turned a line drive into an unassisted double play in the fifth, much to the enjoyment of the Tigers' radio play-by-play man, Dan Dickerson.

Time flies part two: Miguel Tejada is 39, in his 16th MLB season, and hanging on as a bench player in Kansas City. His MVP was 11 years ago, winning the AL award in 2002.

Last night Billy Butler was tossed legitimately completing over a strike call, a Jose Valverde pitch which should have been called a ball. Of course, Butler came to the plate in the ninth inning with Valverde on the mound.

On the FSD broadcast, Rod Allen was going on about the Tigers' awful body language after Valverde had blown the save. The media and fan base was in even worse shape.

THREE ROARS:

Justin Verlander: This was the best game for Verlander since he shut out the Astros over seven innings on May 5.

As a matter of fact, Mlive's beat writer (and Twitter must follow) was correct. Verlander hadn't allowed less than three runs or six hits in any of his last six starts. Today? No runs on three hits over seven innings and 117 pitches and a no-decision.

Prince Fielder: They look like line drives in the box score, but Fielder's opposite field bloops count the same. Drove in the first Tigers run with his opposite field single.

Brayan Pena: An RBI double was one of Pena's two hits, raising his average to .299 in the process.

THREE VALVERDES:

Jose Valverde: The home runs have become more numerous and far more damaging. Valverde allowed eight home runs over 141 1/3 innings pitched in 2011 and 2012. In just 17 1/3 innings this season, Valverde has given up five.

Jim Leyland: The story of the day - bunts and Valverde. The bunts were somewhat defensible. Pulling Smyly for Valverde, not so much.

The Tigers' offense: Eight runs in three games against the Royals is unacceptable. The Tigers had runners in scoring position in he sixth through eighth innings, and failed to score.

BONUS VALVERDE:

The Tigers' bullpen: Three runs, five hits, a home run, a blown save and a loss, all in 2 2/3 innings.

ROLL CALL:

Roll Call Info
Total comments 1,277
Total commenters 56
Commenter list Alex Baker, BadCompany22, Cabbylander, CokeIsMyHeroin, DJ Screw, Fielder'sChoice, Grzesio, H2OPoloPunk, Honeyman, HookSlide, JWurm, J_the_Man, Jacob30, JerseyTigerFan, Joaquin on Sunshine, Keith-Allen, MSUDersh, Mark in Chicago, Matthew Malek, Michigan&TrumbullinLA, MotorCityCat, N*W, NCDee, Nonsuch Ned, Oberon, RationalSportsFan, Rob Rogacki, SAchris, SabreRoseTiger, SanDiegoMick, ShowingBunt, Singledigit, Sneechin', SpartanHT, Starsailor, There Can Only Be One Verlander, Thorpac, Tigerdog1, ahtrap, bobrob2004, cpass3, dishnet34, dominator039, dskirsa, frisbeepilot, gf206, jcbeckman, johnmoz, kland83, knucklescarbone, mrsunshine, redwingxviii, sactwnsteelr, scott_cunni, stevenyc, thepartybird
Story URLs http://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/6/12/4422814/game-64-tigers-at-royals-2-10-p-mhttp://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/6/12/4424020/game-64-overflow-tigers-at-royals/in/4187131http://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/6/12/4424338/game-64-overflow-2-tigers-at-royals

TOP TEN CONNENTERS:

# Commenter # Comments
1 BadCompany22 98
2 SpartanHT 92
3 Rob Rogacki 92
4 Joaquin on Sunshine 86
5 kland83 84
6 Sneechin' 60
7 MSUDersh 58
8 stevenyc 56
9 Matthew Malek 56
10 Tigerdog1 55


TOP RECS:

# Recs Commenter Comment Link
6 Michigan&TrumbullinLA I have a similar dilemma to this.
6 Alex Baker LEEEEEEEROY JENKINNNNNNNNNNNNNS
5 SpartanHT I bunt, therefore I'm out
4 SanDiegoMick 2E or not 2B
3 kland83 Ahh my favorite argument of the last decade
3 stevenyc I'd bring in Mariano Rivera, like every other team does in this situation

GAME 63 PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Despite the controversy over Jose Valverde being deserving of a hiss, PotG goes to still undefeated Max Scherzer. Maxwell tossed seven innings, allowing just two runs on three hits and striking out six in beating the very pesky Royals.

More Roars

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Tigers’ road struggles nothing new

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