Tigers 11, Nationals 1: Gio Gonzalez shelled, Torii Hunter leads 15 hit attack, Justin Verlander earns victory

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Led by Torii Hunter's four hits and Justin Verlander's six innings of one run ball, the Tigers blasted the Nationals for Christmas in July, sweeping the short two game series.

It was Christmas in July at Comerica Park today. The Washington Nationals were on Santa's naughty list, given a stocking full of coal by the Detroit Tigers in an 11-1 blowout loss. The Tigers swept the short two-game series by a combined score of 16-2.

Justin Verlander (11-8) wasn't dominant, but more than good enough to shut down the Nationals on four hits over six innings, allowing just one run. Nationals starter and loser Gio Gonzalez (7-4) had his worst start of the season, shelled for a pair of five spots, giving up ten runs and 11 hits in just 3 1/3 innings.

The Tigers' 15-hit onslaught was led by Torii Hunter. The veteran right fielder had four hits and three RBIs, including a home run and two doubles. Hunter ended up a triple short of the cycle. A resurgent Alex Avila reached base four times, hitting a two-run home run in the process. Victor Martinez finished off a great month with three more hits. Martinez started July hitting .233, ends it at .274.

The Nationals were held to five hits on the afternoon. Jayson Werth drove in their lone run with a first-inning sacrifice fly.

The day truly was Christmas in July for the high-flying Tigers. As for the Nationals, the Nightmare Before Christmas was a more appropriate term.

Justin Verlander found himself in deep trouble just three batters into the game. The Nationals loaded the bases on a walk to Denard Span, a line-drive single to right by Bryan Harper and another base-on-balls issued to Ryan Zimmerman. Jayson Werth gave the Nationals a 1-0 lead with a sacrifice fly to deep right center.

With cries of "DOOOOOOOM" and "Verlander's broken again" being tossed around by the Tigers fan base, Verlander settled down from there, keeping the damage to a minimum. Adam LaRoche struck out swinging, Ian Desmond bouncing into a 6-4 fielder's choice to end the inning. This would be a trend for Verlander over the remainder of the game, pitching into, then out of, trouble.

Torii Hunter doubled with one out in the first off Gio Gonzalez, but was ultimately stranded 90 feet away from the plate on fly outs off the bats of Matt Tuiasosopo and Prince Fielder, ending the inning

After Verlander retired the Nationals in order, the Tigers threatened in the bottom of the second. Victor Martinez led off with a single. Jhonny Peralta, quite possibly making his last appearance for 50 games, just missed a home run, doubling off the left field fence. Being there was no one out, Martinez was held at third.

"We caught a couple good teams at the right time." -Jim Leyland on beating the Phillies and Nationals

Hernan Perez struck out, but veteran Ramon Santiago picked up the rookie. Third baseman Anthony Rendon was unable to make a play on Santiago's chopper down the line, the ball glancing off his glove into foul territory for a two RBI double and a 2-1 Tigers lead.

Alex Avila's bat has been waking up over the past month, posting a respectable .740 OPS in July. He continued his hot streak, taking a Gonzalez breaking ball the opposite way, lifting a fly ball over the bullpens in left for a two run homer. Avila's second home run in as many days was his eighth of the season, the Tigers now up 4-1 (MLB.com video).

Two out and Hunter at the plate, Gonzalez brushed him back high and tight to fall behind in the count 3-1. Hunter retaliated by buggy-whipping Gonzalez's next pitch on a line over the left field fence. Hunter's 11th big fly of 2013 increased the Tigers' advantage to 5-1 (MLB.com video).

Rendon extended the inning for the Tigers, Tuiasosopo safe at first when his throw pulled LaRoche off the bag. Gonzalez finally ended a long, 36-pitch inning by striking out Fielder. But the Tigers had batted around, sending nine to the plate, scoring five runs on five hits, two of the big fly variety.

Verlander didn't exactly toss a shutdown top of the third, but he did keep the Nationals off the scoreboard. The always annoying Denard Span led off with a Twins Hit up the middle, Werth drawing a four-pitch, two-out walk. Verlander struck out LaRoche for the second straight at-bat, ending the inning.

"I'm not the Grinch who stole Christmas, but I'm trying to win a ball game. Santa looked awful cute." -Leyland discussing "Christmas in July"

While inefficient Verlander was holding the Nationals at bay, the Tigers were showing Gonzalez what it's like to suffer death by paper cuts.

One down, Avila walked. Runners on first and no outs, the Tigers would then dice and slice Gonzalez with five straight singles, including a couple of the broken bat variety, blowing the game wide open.

Jackson singled, Avila taking third. Hunter lined a single to right, Avila scoring. Tuiasosopo broke his bat, but muscled a single through the left side, Jackson crossing the plate. Fielder broke his bat as well, but managed to drop a flair in shallow right, Hunter scoring. Martinez followed with another single to plate Tuiasosopo.

The Nationals down 9-1, four runs having crossed the plate on a walk and five consecutive singles, manager Davey Johnson had little choice but to remove the beleaguered Gonzalez. Right-hander Ross Ohlendorf took over and was greeted by Perez with the sixth straight single, Fielder scoring to push the Tigers into double digits at 10-1.

In the National's case today, when it rains, it doesn't just pour -- it becomes a Sharknado. Ohlendorf threw two pitches closer to 8 Mile than the strike zone to Santiago, then started shrugging his right shoulder. He was summarily pulled from the game with an unspecified injury.

Injury replacement Craig Stammen took over, loading the bases by walking Santiago. A long, miserable inning for the Nationals mercifully came to an end when Avila struck out. The Tigers had dropped their second five spot on the Nationals in three innings, sending 11 to the plate on six hits and two walks.

It was safe to say, GAME essentially OVER.

Inefficient Verlander isn't a thing of beauty, but can be effective. The Nationals had three reach base in the top of the fifth. But a 4-6-3 double play with a two on and no one out bailed Verlander out of trouble.

Top of six, Verlander had one of his easiest innings of the day, setting the side down in order on 12 pitches. It was Verlander's first 1-2-3 inning since the second. But his pitch count standing at 103 and with a nine run lead, Jim Leyland pulled his ace out of the game on a high note after six innings.

While Verlander was receiving the "Handshake of Doom," Stammen was busy mowing the Tigers down, holding them hitless over 2 1/3 innings since entering the game with two outs in fourth. But at that point, with a nine run lead, the Tigers had called off the hounds. Top of seven, Don Kelly and Phil Coke entered the game in place of Fielder and Verlander, respectively.

Bottom of seven, Santiago and Avila on base, Hunter drove in the Tigers' 11th run by doubling into the right field corner. But what made the play interesting was Hunter needed a triple for the cycle. Head down, Hunter rounded second with full head of steam, having every intention of earning that triple. But third base coach Tom Brookens held up the stop sign for Avila, Hunter forced to skid to a stop too far off the second base bag. Werth threw behind Hunter, where he was tagged out.

Hunter had himself a four hit game, but ended up a triple short of the cycle.

Al Alburquerque took over in the eighth. (Flips coin) The good Alburquerque was in attendance today, retiring the Nationals in order on a pair of ground balls and a pop up.

Top wrap up the blowout, today's garbage time pitcher was Evan Reed. He held on the Tigers' ten run lead, tossing an uneventful ninth.

GAME officially OVER. Your final score is Tigers 11, Nationals 1. The Tigers sweep their five home games with the junior varsity, aka the National League.

Embarrassed by the Tigers, Harper was not a happy Nationals ball player after the game.

No problem. The Nationals need to get hold of Hawk Harrelson's TWTW.

Undefeated on the current home stand, winners of five in a row and 9-of-10, the Tigers end their July on a roll. They wrap up the month at 18-8, their overall record improving to 16 games over .500 at 61-45. That's the most they've been over the break even mark since 2011. The Tigers' lead in the Central stands at three games. The Indians have yet to take the field, and will face the White Sox at home later today. The Tribe are just as hot as the Tigers, winners of six straight and 7-of-10. Meanwhile, the Royals are just hanging around in third place at 52-51, five games back,

Up next for the Tigers is another day off, their second of the week. On tap for Friday night is a three game weekend series with the last place White Sox. Hard luck lefty ace Chris Sale (6-10, 2.69 ERA) faces the Tigers' Doug Fister (9-5, 3.67 ERA). Sale's last start was an excellent seven hit, one run complete game against the Royals. He was also the losing pitcher. Fister is 3-0,1.35 ERA in his last three starts, bouncing back from a string of inconsistent appearances. Friday night's first pitch is 7:08 PM.

WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:


Source: FanGraphs

BULLETS:

How hot as Alex Avila been? He's hitting .500 with runners in scoring position for the month of July. Avila has seven extra base hits and 19 RBIs for the month, after just nine and 13 over the three months of the season. His second inning home run was his first off a left-handed pitcher since taking Jason Vargas yard on April 24, 2012.

Because he's hitting? Isn't that what shuts up most trolls?

Why many in the national media are essentially trolls in disguise, part 24, 367:

Head to Detroit for a ton of money, play for a big spending team which is an odds on favorite to play in the World Series while living in what are quite nice suburbs? Sounds just horrific. To be honest, the column isn't bad, but the tweet is idiotic. If you feel a dig at Detroit is absolutely necessary, make it funny and original. This is neither.

Gio Gonzalez hadn't allowed more than five runs or nine hits, or pitched less than four innings in a game this season. Today, the Tigers knocked around the Nationals' number two starter for 11 hits and tens runs in just 3 1/3 innings of work. His ERA took a shot in the solar plexus as well, jumping from 2.97 to 3.57.

Intense Phil Coke pitched an intense seventh inning.

Coke_medium

Kurt: Man, Phil Coke was intense.
Al: That's a man who knows his job might be on the line.
Kurt: For sure.

If all reports are true, was Jhonny Peralta's final at-bat for at least 50 games (and possibly his final appearance in the Olde English D) resulted in an eighth-inning base on balls. The All-Star shortstop was 1-for-4 on the day, his average now .307. It will remain there for some time to come.

It's 4 PM.

What was Dave Dombrowski doing as the trade deadline arrived at 4 PM eastern time? Working the phone? Answering urgent texts? Furiously faxing the league office with trade paperwork? Nope. His work done, Dombrowski was hanging out in a suite with Leyland's BFF, Tony La Russa.

Dd_and_tlr_medium

Post game, FSD's Shannon Hogan interviewed Torii Hunter on the field, which resulted in this exchange:

Hunter_hogan_medium

Hogan: "Enjoy your day off tomorrow!"
Hunter: "I'm going to lay out naked at the pool."
Hogan: "OH!"

When the media tried to drag Leyland into a conversation about the trade deadline, he refused to bite.

I manage the Detroit Tigers. That's what I do."

As for Verlander? "Meh" is a good way to describe the skipper's thoughts.

"I thought he threw the ball very well, I thought he he made pitches when he had to. I thought his was a little erratic."

Leyland did admit Avila is banged up with a hip issue and won't play in all three games with the White Sox this weekend.

THREE ROARS:

Justin Verlander: Verlander had good stuff, as shown by allowing just four hits and striking out six, the most in an appearance since June 12. But Verlander was also still battling with his command, as shown by five walks and 103 pitches over six innings. But I'll take a six-inning, one-run allowed performance anytime. A quality start is a quality start, after all.

Torii Hunter: Four-hit game, three RBIs', two runs scored, a home run and a triple short of the cycle.

Alex Avila: Reached base four times on two hits, including a two run home run, and two walks. An Avila who can get on base at a .350 clip with some power will go a long way toward replacing production the Tigers will miss from their likely to be suspended shortstop.

BONUS ROAR:

Victor Martinez: Three hits raised his average to .274.

ONE HISS:

Bud Selig: Judge, jury and executioner in regard to Peralta.

ROLL CALL:

Roll Call Info
Total comments 989
Total commenters 54
Commenter list Alex Baker, BadCompany22, Bent82, BigAl, Cabbylander, Dale Sams, Designated for Assignment, DetroitSports, Grant E., Grzesio, Honeyman, HookSlide, InLeylandWeTrust, J_the_Man, JerseyTigerFan, Jim Bunn, Joaquin on Sunshine, Joshsteich, Keith-Allen, Kurt Mensching, Lukas M, MSUDersh, Matthew Malek, Michigan&TrumbullinLA, MidnightRider66, NCDee, Nonsuch Ned, NorthLeft12, RedWingedLigerFan, Rob Rogacki, SS451, SanDiegoMick, ShowingBunt, Singledigit, SpartanBoiler, SpartanHT, StekiTigersPride, There Can Only Be One Verlander, TigerTom, TomduhB, brunokm, dominator039, gf206, japobere, johnmoz, lithium, mrsunshine, pman4, redwingxviii, sactwnsteelr, stevenyc, swish330, texastigerfan, 13194013
Story URLs http://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/7/31/4574666/game-106-nationals-at-tigers-1-08-p-mhttp://www.blessyouboys.com/2013/7/31/4575876/game-106-overflow-nationals-at-tigers/in/4338703

TOP TEN 11 COMMENTERS:

# Commenter # Comments
1 RedWingedLigerFan 153
2 Joaquin on Sunshine 80
3 BadCompany22 73
4 TigerTom 67
5 SpartanHT 53
6 mrsunshine 48
7 swish330 39
8 ShowingBunt 34
9 HookSlide 33
10 NCDee 32
11 stevenyc 32

TOP RECS:

# Recs Commenter Comment Link
11 NCDee Took me a minute but
8 J_the_Man Screw you Bud Selig
6 stevenyc Not sure if folks saw this one
4 RedWingedLigerFan SWEEEEEEEEEP!!
3 johnmoz .
3 johnmoz SHEFF DON'T CARE THAT YOU DON'T WANT SOMEBODY WEARING #3

GAME 105 PLAYER OF THE GAME:

Alex Avila has been turning his season around in July, capping off what's been a solid month with a game-winning grand slam off Stephen Strasburg in a 5-1 win over the Nationals. Avila was the overwhelming PotG victor, carrying 86% of the vote.

More Roars

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