These are the kinds of games that just make you hate life. Or baseball, at least. For four innings, Justin Verlander looked unstoppable. More specifically, unhittable. Everyone watching the game was having flashbacks to June 12, 2007, as the Mariners couldn't touch anything Verlander was throwing.
Just as we were wondering whether or not to mention the words "no-hitter," however, Adrian Beltre ended such thoughts with a leadoff double in the fifth inning. And that's where it all fell apart for Verlander and the Tigers. Five of the next six batters reached base. (And that one out was on a sacrifice bunt.) Four runs scored. The Tigers' 3-0 lead was gone. Seattle added a fifth run when Verlander threw a wild pitch, completing the meltdown.
A shell-shocked Tigers team couldn't even put up a fight after that.
How does someone go from completely dominant to batting practice machine in one inning? How often does a pitcher have a no-hitter broken up, then has to pull himself back together to still try and win the game? But it's not like Verlander took that into the seventh or eighth inning. It was the fifth. He wasn't even on the board for a win yet.
Verlander's defense most definitely didn't help him out. But he seemed to let those misplays get to him, rather than shake them off. Mentally, he just crumbled. Even though he pulled himself together to pitch 2.1 more innings, it was too late.
This one absolutely, positively turned on one play. In that nightmarish fifth inning, Yuniesky Betancourt hit an easy ground ball to Brandon Inge. But with plenty of time to make a sure play, Inge bounced his throw in front of Gerald Laird, preventing a tag at the plate. And Russell Branyan was total meat. It wouldn't even have been a close play. Instead, the Mariners scored their second run, and had two more outs remaining.
Comment of the Night:
I'd love to complain about home plate umpire Mike Dimuro giving the low strike to Seattle's relievers when he wouldn't give it to Verlander in that fifth inning, but that nothing to do with the final outcome. The Tigers beat themselves tonight. (And blew chances to add to that 3-0 lead.) The Mariners continue to find ways to win. What a gut punch.