For the second time this season, Justin Verlander took a no-hitter into the seventh inning, only to fall short. The Tigers' ace lost the bid for his third career no-hitter after 6 2/3 innings on a Mitch Moreland double, settling for a dominant seven inning one hitter. A vintage Verlander set the tone and the bats did the rest in a 5-0 the Detroit Tigers victory over the Texas Rangers.
Verlander (10-6) didn't have the greatest command of his fastball, but bewildered the Rangers with breaking balls and off speed stuff. He left the game with what the Tigers are calling a tight right quad muscle after allowing the one hit, walking three, striking out three over seven innings.
Rangers starter Martín Perez (3-2) didn't pitch badly, scattering just four hits in 5 2/3 innings. But what few hits Perez give up were highly damaging. The Tigers hit three home runs off Perez, who was ultimately charged with all five Tigers' runs.
The Tigers mustered only seven hits on the afternoon, but made them count. Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta and Torii Hunter all hit solo home runs to supply Verlander with more than enough offense. Matt Tuiasosopo also added an RBI single. The Rangers ended up with two hits on the afternoon, Geovany Soto's adding an eighth inning single to Moreland's double.
The first place Tigers still have holes to fill as the trade deadline looms. But if a dominant Verlander becomes the norm rather than the exception, it bodes quite well for their second half chances, no matter what happens on the trade front over the next two weeks.
Thanks to the long ball, the Tigers took a first inning advantage for the second time in the three game series. One down in the bottom half of the first, Torii Hunter crushed Perez's hanging breaking ball, buggy whipping a line drive into the left field seats, adding a bat flip flourish (MLB.com video). Hunter's seventh home run of the season gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Given a small cushion, Justin Verlander was making the most of it, facing the minimum through three. The only base runner for the Rangers had been Leonys Martín in the first, who was thrown out attempting to steal second.
Martin Perez had settled in as well. After Hunter went yard, Perez had only allowed a first inning walk to Miguel Cabrera through three innings. The pitcher's duel was on. Or at least it looked to be.
Top of four, Verlander had himself another 1-2-3 inning, though he got a little lucky on the third out. Nelson Cruz drilled a line drive directly at Matt Tuiasosopo. The liner nearly cleared the head of a fooled Tuiasosopo, who recovered to make an awkward leaping catch to end the inning.
Perez had retired ten straight when Victor Martinez strode to the plate with two down in the fourth. The streak ended there, Martinez shaking off Saturday's 0-for-4 by taking Perez deep, clearing the fence near the flag pole in left center (MLB.com video). Martinez's eighth big fly of the season extended the Tigers' lead to 2-0.
Wait, make it 3-0 Tigers!
Jhonny Peralta made it back-to-back jacks off Perez, going the opposite way with change up for his eighth homer of the season (MLB.com video). Peralta cleared the right field wall near the 365' mark to give the Tigers three solo home runs on the afternoon and a three run lead.
Verlander allowed his second base runner with one out in the fifth, walking Mitch Moreland on five pitches. But a pair of good defensive plays behind Verlander ended the inning. Hunter made a nice running catch in right to flag down Elvis Andrus' fly ball for the second out. Martinez, who was playing first base in place of Fielder, made a back-handed stop from his knees to retire Jurickson Profar for out number three.
At this point, Verlander was tossing a mix of 2/3 breaking-off speed pitches to 1/3 fastballs. His off speed stuff was magnificent, but was having command issues with the heat.
Top of six, Geovany Soto battled Verlander to a near standoff, just missing both a home run and double (yanking both just foul) before earning a lead off walk. The free pass pushed Verlander's pitch count north of 90. Regardless, Verlander shrugged off his second base runner of the game, retiring the next three Rangers in order.
Verlander still had a no-hitter in play through six. But he also had an somewhat elevated pitch count of 97, which meant he was tracking for a 145 pitch game. To put the count in perspective, Verlander's first no-hitter in 2007 was a 112 pitch affair, while his 2011 no-no was an efficient 108.
Hunter triggered another rally in the bottom of the sixth with a lead off walk off Perez. Cabrera walked for the second time to move Hunter into scoring position. It looked as if Perez would pitch out of the jam, setting down Fielder and Martinez on fly balls. But Peralta came through with the big two out base knock, looping an RBI single just over the glove of a leaping Ian Kinsler. Hunter challenged Martin's arm, beating the throw with an excellent slide.
The score now 4-0 Tigers, Ron Washington pulled his starter, calling on right-hander Cory Burns. Instead of playing the lefty-righty matchup, Jim Leyland decided to let the right-hand hitting Tuiasosopo hit. The move paid off with another run, Tuiasosopo bouncing a single up the middle to plate Cabrera, pushing the Tigers' lead to 5-0.
The Tigers would go on to load the bases with two out on an Avila walk, Hernan Perez popping up ended the threat. But the way Verlander was pitching, five runs may just as well have been 50. He was that good.
Verlander retired the first two Rangers he faced in the bottom of the seventh. But Moreland ended the drama when he turned on on off-speed pitch, pounding a long double to right center. It was a no-doubt base hit, neither Austin Jackson or Hunter had a legitimate shot at running it down (MLB.com video). Verlander's flirted with his third no-no, but the no-hit bid ends after 6 2/3 innings on his 104th pitch.
Of course, Verlander ended the sixth needing just one pitch, Andrus stranding Moreland with a pop up to short right. With a no-hitter out of play, Leyland broke out the "Handshake of doom," ending a brilliant Verlander performance.But the official reason given for Verlander's exit was a precautionary one.
Justin Verlander left the game today with a tight right quad muscle.— Chris Iott (@Chris_Iott) July 14, 2013
With four days off and his not pitching in the All-Star Game, I doubt this will derail Verlander for any length of time.
Drew Smyly took over Verlander, pitching 1 1/3 innings, allowing an eighth inning single. With one down in the ninth, Leyland went back to the pen, bringing on his closer in a non-save situation. Joaquin Benoit hit Beltre with two outs, but struck out Moreland to end a strong series for the Tigers.
Your final score is Tigers 5, Rangers 0, Justin Verlander 0-0-0-0-0-0-1.
GAME OVER. SERIES OVER. FIRST HALF OVER. The Tigers end all three in first place.
Justin Verlander didn't have his best stuff, being he was having command issues with his fastball. But he's become such a good pitcher, Verlander was able to shut down the Rangers with a bewildering mix of off speed pitches. The Rangers did hit a few balls hard, but the Tigers' defense was up to the task. All in all, the Tigers couldn't have asked for a better end to the first half. Taking two of three from a good Rangers team, while Verlander bounces back with one of his best starts of the season.
After 94 games, the Tigers reach the end of the first half at their high water mark (again) of ten games over .500 with a record of 52-42. They hold a 1 1/2 game lead over the Indians in the Central. The Tribe ended the first half with a three game series sweep over the weak sauce Royals. The Central has become a two team race, the sweep knocking the Royals eight game back of the Tigers in the standings. The Twins and White Sox are back markers, 12 1/2 and 13 1/2 back, respectively.
The Tigers are in pretty damn good shape, currently holding a better record at the break than 2011 and 2012 playoff teams.
#Tigers take 52-42 record to break, 1.5G lead. 44-42 last yr at break, finished 44-32. Two years ago, 49-43 at the break, finished 46-24.— Dan Dickerson (@Dan_Dickerson) July 14, 2013
The All-Star break having arrived, the Tigers won't play again until Friday night in Kansas City. Up next for most of the team is four days off. But six Tigers will be participating in MLB's All-Star Game festivities. Tomorrow's main attraction is the Home Run Derby, where Prince Fielder will attempt to defend his title. starts at 8 PM, and will be broadcast on ESPN.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Our own Eric Wayne, aka Phil Coke's Brain, was at Comerica Park for today's action. Turns out there was a meeting of epic proportions.
Just shook hands with Tiger Suit Guy aka Tigerman aka Jim Nelle— Eric Wayne (@PhilCokesBrain) July 14, 2013
The Tigers arrive at the All-Star break in first place in the AL Central. We know from recent experience there's no guarantee first place at the break means the playoffs are in your future. In 2012, 50% of the teams who we leading their division at the All-Star Game missed out on the post season.
Of the 6 division leaders at the All-Star break last year, 3 missed the playoffs entirely. (CWS, PIT, LAD)— Noah Trister (@noahtrister) July 14, 2013
There was a shocking development in the first inning. The Tigers actually threw at runner out trying to steal, Alex Avila firing an on-target bullet to nail Leonys Martín for the second out of the game.
With Justin Verlander pitching today, he would not be able to throw in Tuesday's All-Star Game, though he will still be in attendance. The news as to who would be his replacement broke in the third inning.
Justin Verlander has been replaced on the All-Star roster by Chris Tillman, Tigers confirm.— Chris Iott (@Chris_Iott) July 14, 2013
Tillman is 11-3 for the Orioles, but has an ERA of 3.95. Let the arguments over Tillman's All-Star worthiness commence.
I give nearly zero figs about the All-Star Game, but there might be 20 AL pitchers more worthy of an All-Star berth than Chris Tillman.— Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) July 14, 2013
But there's another reason why Velander won't play.
Couldn't find tight enough pants. RT @AceRHPDonKelly: Huh. Why did JV drop out of the ASG?— Al Beaton (@BigAlBYB) July 14, 2013
There can't be a catcher in baseball who takes more unintentional punishment than Avila, who suffered a painful shot to the nether regions in the third.
Well, good thing Avila and his wife had a child already. Might not get another one now.— BYB Rob (@Detroit4lyfeRob) July 14, 2013
RIP Avila's testicles.— Scott Rogowski (@DNR_Rogo) July 14, 2013
Meanwhile, at the Futures Game at Citi Field:
For those of you playing the Rod Allen Drinking Game:
ROD SAID OPPO TACO FINISH EVERY DRINK EVERYWHERE— BYB Rob (@Detroit4lyfeRob) July 14, 2013
Matt Tuiasosopo has a reputation of not being able to hit right-handed pitching. This season's splits have shown otherwise, being they are almost identical (and crazy good) no matter what side the pitch is coming from. In 2013, Big Squiggles has a 1.104 OPS against right-handers, 1.071 against lefties. Tuiasosopo came through against a right-hander today, driving in a run when he singled off Cory Burns in the sixth.
Late in the game, the Tigers had more breaking news - The return of Bondo and Mr. Snappy.
BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO BONDO— BYB Rob (@Detroit4lyfeRob) July 14, 2013
Bondo. Oh dear.— Scott Rogowski (@DNR_Rogo) July 14, 2013
I'm still waiting on the return of Nate Cornejo.
It's a nice story, but I doubt Jeremy Bonderman has much left. The Mariners sure didn't seem to think so. But I can't help but root for Bondo, and I'm thrilled to see him back in the Tigers' organization.
Jim Leyland has big plans while at the All-Star Game:
"Hopefully get some goodie bags from the All-Star team (looks at assembled media), maybe even get you guys a t-shirt."
Justin Verlander: Flirted with his third no-hitter, ending up with a seven inning, one hit, no runs allowed day. His final line - 7 IP, 1 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 105 pitches 62 strikes.
Jhonny Perlata: Nice way to end the first half for Peralta, who had been struggling coming into the Rangers series. He reached base three times, homered and drove in a pair of runs.
Torii Hunter: Ended the first half on a tear, having raised his average to .315 with a huge series. Hunter had two hits, one a home run, scoring twice against the Rangers.
With one of their better all-around performances of the season, the Tigers reach the All-Star break in first place with 52 wins. No HISSES today.
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Phil Coke's four up, four down outing topped Hernan Perez's first career RBI by one vote to take BYB PotG.