Justin Verlander did it all for the Detroit Tigers tonight, beating the San Diego Padres with his arm and BAT. Yes, bat! Verlander had the first two hits of his career and also scored his first run in a 4-2 Detroit Tigers victory. The Tigers bounced back with a win after nearly being no-hit on Friday night.
The Tigers' ace earned his first win of the season by pitching seven innings, allowing eight hits and two runs, striking out a season high eight. Verlander improved his career interleague record to 22-2 in 29 starts.
Detroit's beleaguered bullpen was fine tonight. Ian Krol and Joe Nathan each pitched a scoreless inning to close out the win for Verlander.
Padres' starter Ian Kennedy was Verlander's victim on both his hits. Kennedy would take his second loss of the young season by giving up four runs on eight hits, striking out seven in six innings of work.
The top of the Tigers' order did most of the damage against the Padres. Lead off man Rajai Davis had two hits and two runs. Number two hitter Ian Kinsler had a pair of doubles, a run scored and an RBI. Miguel Cabrera had his first RBI since the opening week of the season with a double. Torii Hunter returned to the lineup after missing the last two games with a knee injury, contributing a two RBI single to the winning cause. Austin Jackson closed out the Tigers' 11 hit attack with a two-RBI double in the eighth.
For the Padres, Jedd Gyorko drove in a run with a sacrifice fly and Yasmani Grandal added an RBI single.
I think it's safe to say the happiest person in San Diego tonight is Verlander, who never again has to hear someone ask when/where/how he's going to get his first hit. Verlander now owns a shiny pair of big league singles which will be on the stat sheet for all eternity.
The win pushes the Tigers' record to 2-2 on the west coast swing and at 6-3 have the best record in the AL. If you believe a vocal part of the Detroit fan base, the Tigers are now the worst 6-3 team in baseball history.
Two batters into the top of the first, Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler doubled the Tigers' Friday offensive output and put the Ian Kennedy and the Padres in a quick 1-0 hole.
Davis led off the game with a single, then raced around the bases to score when Kinsler's fly to deep left center rolled to the wall for an RBI double (MLB.com video). Much like the Tigers' Rick Porcello last night, Kennedy got out of the inning thanks to some loud outs, Miguel Cabrera (the first ball he's hit hard in San Diego) and Austin Jackson flying deep to right, stranding Kinsler.
The Padres extended Justin Verlander's pitch count in the bottom half of the inning, tying the game in the process. The rally started with Chris Denorfia's one-out single. Verlander threw to first to keep him close, then forgot about him. Denorfia took a walking lead and never stopped, swiping second without a throw. Seth Smith walked, giving the Jedd Gyorko an RBI opportunity.
Denorfia took off again when Verlander threw to first to keep Smith close, reaching third base safely. The aggressive base running paid off when Gyorko flew out to left, Denorfia tagging up to knot the game at 1-all. Despite Verlander shattering his bat, Chase Headley kept the inning alive with an infield single. Yonder Alonso bounced out on Verlander's 31st pitch, a long inning finally coming to an end.
Top of two, history was made. Two out and Nick Castellanos on first after an error, Verlander (0-for-26 for his career entering the night) singled. That is not a typo, VERLANDER SINGLED.
A ground ball back up the middle ended his career long hitless drought (MLB.com video). Unfortunately, Verlander's offensive contribution went for naught. Davis struck out to end the inning.
Top of three, the Tigers were able to take back the lead without help from Verlander's bat. Kinsler led off the inning with his second double of the night, then scored when Cabrera's one-out liner down the left field line landed inches fair, rolling into the corner for an RBI double and a 2-1 lead (MLB.com video).
Getting a hit earlier perked up Verlander. He quickly got his pitch count back under control, needing only 17 pitches to record the next six outs.
Verlander wasn't just just a force on the mound. He was a force with the bat, kicking off a two-run, fourth inning rally with his second hit of the game. After he lined a single to right with one out, Davis followed up with a single as well. Kinsler's productive out to the left side moved both runners 90 feet.
Verlander would score his first career run, Davis right on his heels, when Torii Hunter singled up the middle. The two RBI hit gave the Tigers a 4-1 lead, a lead they would never relinquish (MLB.com video).
The Padres did get one of those runs back in the bottom of the fourth to make it a 4-2 game. Headley led off with a double, and scored on Yasmani Grandal's one out single. Castellanos helped out Verlander with a very nice defensive play to strand a pair of runners and end the inning. The rookie bare-handed Kennedy's bunt and made an on-target throw to first
The Padres would kick up their heels in the bottom of the fifth, putting runners on the corners with two out. Smith kept the inning alive by singling, then raced to third when Austin Jackson booted Gyorko's base hit. It was the second error of the season for the normally sure-handed center fielder.
Facing Headley, who already had two hits on the night, Verlander reared back and threw high cheese past him (a 96-MPH shoulder high fastball, his highest velocity of the night) for the third out.
After picking up the batting pace, Verlander picked up his K pace, striking out a pair of Padres to end the sixth inning, It gave him five on the night, but four had been in the last two innings, as many as he had his first two starts combined.
Kennedy's night was over after six full innings, replaced by right-hander Nick Vincent. He retired the side in order, including a strikeout of Cabrera.
Verlander entered the bottom half of the seventh with a pitch count of 98, so manager Brad Ausmus had Ian Krol and Joba Chamberlain warming up. They wouldn't be needed just yet, Verlander striking out two more Padres in a 1-2-3 inning.
His eighth and final K would end an excellent night for Verlander. Using his breaking stuff to great effect (throwing his fastball only 30% of the time), Verlander went seven innings and 100 pitches, giving up eight hits and two runs, striking out eight and walking just one.
The Tigers ran themselves out of a run in the eighth. Castellanos doubled with one out, but was picked off on a perfect throw from behind the plate by Grandal. It would then make sense that the badly slumping Alex Avila would bounce a single to center. The Tigers were unable to add an insurance for the bullpen, the lead remaining at two going into the bottom of the eighth.
Ausmus didn't bother playing left/right percentages and gave Krol the ball for the eighth. The rookie lefty would allow a two-out double to Yonder Alonso, but pitched around it, using a pair of strikeouts to ensure a scoreless inning.
Davis and Kinsler both reached for a third time in the ninth, Tim Stauffer issuing back-to-back one-out walks. Hunter moved the runners over with a ground ball. Preferring to pitch to Jackson, Padres' skipper Bud Black ordered Cabrera walked intentionally, loading the bases.
The move blew up in spectacular fashion.
After being robbed of extra-bases in his previous at-bat by Smith, Jackson made sure he wouldn't be this time around. He crushed a liner over Smith's head in left center, the ball landing on the warning track and bouncing over the wall for a two RBI ground rule double (MLB.com video).
Considering Joe Nathan's recent struggles, some insurance took some pressure out of the ninth inning. Nathan had been warming up, expecting a save opportunity. Jackson's double took a save off the table, but the 39-year-old closer was given the opportunity to work through his "tired arm" and close out the win.
The Tigers' highly paid reliever did just that. Nathan did allow a two out seeing eye single to Everth Cabrera, but struck out Denorfia to end the game in fine style.
Game over! Your final score is Tigers 6, Padres 2. That's more like it.
The last game of the Tigers' west coast swing in also their series finale with the Padres. Max Scherzer (0-0, 1.20 ERA) looks for his first victory of the season against right-hander Tyson Ross (0-2, 4.36 ERA). In his first two starts of the season, Scherzer has pitched like the reigning Cy Young winner he is, allowing just two runs in 15 innings. Ross has battled his control in his two appearances, walking nine and striking out nine in 10 1/3 innings.
Sunday's first pitch at Petco Park is set for 1:10 P.M. eastern.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
In attendance tonight was Tiger Suit Guy.
Brad Ausmus' starting lineup had one major change tonight. Torii Hunter returned the lineup for the first time since sliding into a wall Tuesday night and suffering a knee contusion. Hunter was back in right field and batting third. Victor Martinez got the night off, save for making a ninth inning pinch-hitting appearance and playing first base in the bottom half of the frame.
After Andrew Cashner's near miss on Friday, there would be no no-no alerts tonight. Ian Kennedy and Justin Verlander both allowed first inning hits.
Interleague play always brings up one question - When will Verlander get a base hit? He's been an ace on the mound, but a dud at the plate Verlander entered tonight's game 0-for-26 with 15 strikeouts for his career. But one member of the Verlander clan was confident the hitless streak would end.
Justin should be batting after Miggy #RBIMachine— Ben Verlander (@Verly32) April 13, 2014
Ben was ... correct? Indeed he was. Verlander's hitless streak came to an end after ten big league seasons on his 27th career at bat. Verlander sent a 91-MPH Kennedy fastball back through the middle for a ground ball single! Verlander was one happy slugger.
Verlander made it 2-for-2 on the night with a line single to right in the fourth, though he had to leg it out. Chris Denorfia charged and fired to first, Verlander beating the throw by a step. He would go on to help his own cause by scoring the first run of his career in the inning.
Verlander joined select company with his second single, becoming the fourth Tigers pitcher with a multiple hit game since interlauge play went into effect. The others are Rick Porcello (6/12/09), Jeff Weaver (twice, 6/23/02 and 7/19/99) and the immortal Omar Olivares (6/13/97).
Nick Castellanos recorded his third TOOTBLAN of the season when an eighth inning replay challenge confirmed he was picked off second base.
Verlander's interleague record is ridiculously good. He now has a 22-2, record, a 2.56 ERA and 212 strikeouts in 29 career starts against baseball's junior varsity. You know, the JV.
Justin Verlander: The slugging right-hander had a pair of singles and a run scored, and is hitting a nifty .667/.667/.667 on the season. Oh, yeah. He pitched pretty well, too.
Ian Kinsler: Kicked off the Tigers scoring with a first inning RBI double, and added a second two-base hit. Kinsler reached base three times and scored two runs.
Rajai Davis: His stolen base streak came to an end at four games, but his hitting streak reached six games with a pair of singles. Davis also reached base three times, scoring three runs.
Torii Hunter: His one hit was huge, a two-RBI single in the fourth, which would have proved to be the winning margin, if not for...
Austin Jackson: Foiled Bud Black's strategy with a two-out, two-RBI double to give the Tigers a pair of eighth inning insurance runs.
Ian Krol: The rookie lefty reliever tossed a scoreless eighth, striking out two. He's yet to allow a run in four appearances and 3 2.3 innings.
Joe Nathan: No runs on one hit? I'll take it!
Alex Avila: As Verlander rises offensively, Alex Avila declines. After his fifth inning K, the struggling catcher had struck out in five consecutive plate appearances and in 14 of his 23 at-bats in 2014. He did come through with a base hit in the eighth, which was only his third hit of the season.
This has to be the first game of Verlander's career where he's looked like a better hitter than a teammate. Avila is just lost.— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) April 13, 2014
Alex Gonzalez: Hitless in four at-bats and nearly got Miguel Cabrera hurt when an off-line throw carried his first baseman's arm into the runner.
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GAME EIGHT PLAYER OF THE GAME:
No one was deemed worthy after the Tigers were nearly no-hit in a 1-0 loss, so Padres' starter Andrew Chapman deservedly won the poll.