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Tigers 3, Royals 2: Justin Verlander earns first win the season

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 16:  Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning April 16, 2012 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 16: Justin Verlander #35 of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Kansas City Royals in the first inning April 16, 2012 at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Ed Zurga/Getty Images)
Getty Images

Final - 4.16.2012 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Detroit Tigers 1 0 0 0 2 0 0 0 0 3 7 0
Kansas City Royals 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 2 7 0
WP: Justin Verlander (1 - 1)
LP: Danny Duffy (1 - 1)

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Justin Verlander earned his first victory of the season on Monday. Emphasis on earned. Verlander had to throw 131 pitches in the game to come away with the 3-2 complete-game win over the host Kansas City Royals. Twenty-seven of those were in the ninth inning alone.

Like in his last starts, Verlander cruised through his first innings only to struggle in the last frame. Fortunately for the Tigers' ace and his teammates, he managed to survive what was a pretty stressful inning on the Tigers and their fans alike.

For the nuts and bolts recap, see:

Verlander started off the ninth by allowing a single to Billy Butler before getting the next two batters out. Pinch-runner Jason Bourgeois made it to third made it to third on a couple of grounders, but only one more out was needed. Unfortunately, it didn't come easy. Humberto Quintero singled in the run to cut the Tigers' lead to 3-2, then Verlander walked Mitch Maier on five pitches. It looked like manager Jim Leyland might pull the starter at that point, but he left him in. First pitch after that hit the batter. Uh-oh. Bases loaded for Alex Gordon. Never a good thing.

Verlander fell behind 2-1 before throwing a pair of 100 mph fastballs that were perfectly placed in the low, inside corner of the strike zone to get Gordon looking. Pitch count: 131. Wowza.

A couple of historical notes from ESPN Stats and Info:

The reason for keeping Verlander in the game was pretty simple, from the Tigers' stand point. Verlander had a bad showing in the ninth inning his last start, he needed to have a good taste in his mouth by pitching a successful ninth on Monday. Tigers manager Jim Leyland basically told his pitcher, win or lose the game was Verlander's to finish. Come home with your shield or on it, JV!

Leyland told reports during his Fox Sports Detroit postgame interview: "(Verlander) said he was good. I tell you what. I really think that that's something he would have to get over. To pull him and not let him go through that when he said he felt great would have been a big mistake. I think he's the best pitcher in baseball. He said he was fine. That's another hurdle he's climbed now. I think he'll know how to close them out a little better from now on. He said he was fine, it's a no brainer."

Verlander told FSD and other media members he was just fine because a lot of the pitches were stress free. He agreed that he needed to get through the ninth inning to get back on track. "Skip can't win for losing," Verlander added. "He takes me out (Game 1), we lose. He leaves me in (Game 5), we lose. Tonight he'll get questions because I threw 131 pitches. But I had some demons to exorcise. But I wanted the ball, I wanted to go back out there and shut those guys down. ... But when it came right down to it, I made the pitches I needed to."

Verlander is the ace for a reason. He's pitched in big games. He's thrown two no hitters. He's been there. So we can't pretend this is breaking new ground. Nonetheless, it was breaking ground that needed it in 2012. That's done. The bullpen got a nice rest. The Tigers got a win. That's really all that matters.

3 roars

Verlander picking up the complete game while allowing two runs and striking out eight.

Brandon Inge hitting a home run that proved to be the difference maker

Austin Jackson for continuing to hit, with a leadoff home run for the early lead

3 hisses

Verlander in the ninth! Boo, stressing us out like that.

Miguel Cabrera is in an awful 0-for-21 slump right now after going 0-for-3.

Ryan Raburn and Delmon Young combined for 0-for-8 with two strikeouts. Young left 3 on base.

Game 9 Player of the Game

Rick Porcello had 73%