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The Ace Gets Chased: Yankees 13, Tigers 9

Sidney Ponson pitched better than Justin Verlander yesterday.

Let that swish around for a bit, before you decide what to do with it. We've left trash cans around the room for you.

And it's not like Ponson pitched a gem. He was terrible. He gave up seven runs (six earned) and nine hits (two of them homers) in just three innings. As Peter Abraham posted early this morning on The LoHud Yankees Blog, "you have to question what the Yankees are trying to really accomplish" by continuing to play Ponson.

Yet Verlander was actually worse than that. The good news is he didn't max out at 110 pitches in six innings again. The bad news is that's because he didn't even make it through the second inning. And by then, he'd thrown 64 pitches.

Worst. Start. Ever. No, seriously - for Verlander, it really was. 1 2/3 innings was the shortest outing of his young career.

What the hell is going on here? How did Verlander fall so quickly from ace to disgrace? Is it mechanical? Is his arm worn out? Has he lost focus because of the Tigers' disappointing season? Is he tipping pitches? Is he failing to make adjustments to hitters? Is he hiding an injury?

What do you say, Jim Leyland?

"I'll make this easy for you," he said to reporters. "We basically threw a lot of balls when we should've thrown strikes, and we threw some strikes when we should've thrown balls. That's the end of the conversation. See you later."

That was the extent of Leyland's remarks to the media, lasting only eight or nine seconds, depending on whose account you read. Evidently, those stopwatches weren't stopped at exactly the same moment.

On the bright side (and I realize it's quite a stretch), Tigers fans showed they're "on the good side of the force," as Will Leitch once put it, thanking Pudge Rodriguez for his four-and-a-half years in a Detroit Tigers uniform with a standing ovation before his first at-bat in the second inning. Detroit fans can turn on you fast. (So can Detroit sports columnists.) Just ask Ben Wallace.

Of course, Pudge was traded away, so he didn't turn his back on Detroit in the fans' eyes. We love you, Pudge - even if Andy Pettitte and Mike Mussina don't.

Or maybe Tiger Town just wanted something - anything - to cheer for with this horribly disappointing summer coming to an end.

Roll Call

We haven't been doing the Roll Calls because it's just been too depressing lately. But I have to give a shout-out to Juskimo, who did all he could to keep himself entertained on a slow, quiet Labor Day afternoon in the GameThread. Had I been around to join you, sir, I'd have put up a fight for Sesame as a great bagel flavor.