This is what aces do, Tigers fans.
The first three games of this series had been awful for the Detroit Tigers. In the opener, they let Brad Penny off the hook. On Tuesday, Rick Porcello looked like he had great stuff, but was ejected before he could fully unleash it. And last night... maybe we shouldn't talk about last night.
With one game left to salvage, the Tigers had to show something. Were they going to lay down and accept the beating given to them by the previous three losses? Were they just going to mail this one in and try to get out of Boston as soon as possible? Or were they going to show that they could've won at least two games in this series? Were they going to show some fight?
Justin Verlander apparently didn't intend to leave Fenway Park without making a statement. The Tigers needed someone to pick them up. (Especially their battered pitching staff.) His right arm was plenty strong for that.
Verlander shut the Red Sox out over eight innings, holding them to four hits. He began the game by unsettling Boston's hitters with curveballs and change-ups when they were looking for fastballs. But that didn't mean Verlander was laying off the heat. Oh, far from it. When he had to dial it up, he blew away the big Red Sox bats with 99 and 100 m.p.h. fastballs. It was untouchable stuff.
Just as the Tigers looked like they were going to be run over, their pitching ace threw up a roadblock. And if Verlander is that dominant, who's to say Detroit can't compete with the so-called elite teams in the American League?
The only troubling question of the day was a painfully familiar one for the Tigers. Was another outstanding pitching performance going to be wasted by a lack of run support from Detroit's lineup? For almost four innings, it looked that way. Clay Buchholz was maintaining pace with Verlander, keeping the Tigers off the board.
But then an unlikely hero stood up and did what needed to be done with two runners on in the fourth inning. Ryan Raburn, who was filling in at third base for Brandon Inge today, turned on a first-pitch fastball (that was actually pretty far inside) and drove in Miguel Cabrera to break the scoreless tie.
And with the Tigers clinging to a 1-0 lead that just didn't seem like it would be enough (though Verlander made sure it would've been), Raburn came back to provide a little bit of extra cushion. Turning on yet another inside fastball, Raburn did
what none of his teammates had been able to do in the previous three games of this series: hoist a fly ball over the Green Monster, and almost out of the park altogether.
[EDIT: I've been reminded in the comments that Marcus Thames hit a homer over the Monster last night. Oops. Clearly, I wasn't watching the game by then.]
Oh, and did we mention the slick play that Raburn made on Nick Green's bunt, bare-handing the ball off the grass and gunning a throw to first on the run? Even Inge might have been impressed with that one.
Comment of the Day:
And your runner-up, which I think sums up Tiger Town's mood this evening.