It was a dominant Justin Verlander who took the mound in Toronto tonight, shutting out the Blue Jays over seven innings in an 11-1 Detroit Tigers victory. The Tigers won with ease despite resting a pair of regulars. Miguel Cabrera and Omar Infante were both held out of the lineup due to injury.
Post victory, the Tigers announced rookie outfielder Avisail Garcia was optioned to Triple-A Toledo. Outfielder Matt Tuiasosopo will be activated off the 15-day DL before tomorrow's came in Cleveland.
As for any retaliation by the Tigers against Colby Rasmus for taking out Infante at second base on Wednesday night? With Rasmus going 0-for-4 and the Tigers holding a big lead, there was no need for purpose pitches or risking another suspension.
Verlander (9-5) was dominant for much of the game, allowing three hits, walking two and striking out five in seven full innings. The Tigers' ace has given up just two earned runs over his last 15 innings. Losing pitcher Esmil Rogers (3-4) was rocked for 11 hits and seven runs by the Tigers.
Austin Jackson led a 16-hit Tigers' attack by reaching base five times on four hits (including his fifth homer), four runs scored and three RBIs. Don Kelly reached base four times on three hits, scoring a pair of runs. Torii Hunter chipped in with two hits and three RBIs, while Prince Fielder drove home two. Three Tigers pitchers scattered six hits, Maicer Izturis driving in a meaningless run in the ninth with his second hit of the game.
The story of the game today, other than the ugly damn caps the teams were forced to wear due to an MLB money grab, was Justin Verlander. With the Tigers' setup man and closer given the night off, they needed a vintage Verlander performance. The Tigers got it, Verlander returning to ace form in shutting down the Jays.
After just two batters and three pitches, the shorthanded Tigers had taken an Independence Day lead over the Blue Jays.
Jackson led off the game with a looping single to right. He raced around to score when Andy Dirks' line drive found the gap in left center for an RBI double and a 1-0 lead (MLB.com video)
Batting third in place of a resting Cabrera, Hunter moved Dirks over to third with a ground ball. Fielder did the rest of the work with a line-drive RBI single to center to plate Dirks, the Tigers now up 2-0. Rogers crossed up J.P. Arencibia, who barely touched his fastball as it sailed to the backstop, Fielder rumbling to second.
But second base was where Fielder would remain, Rogers getting out of the inning on a Victor Martinez fly out (swinging on 3-0) and a strikeout of Jhonny Peralta.
Verlander went to a pair of full counts in the bottom half of the first, but retired the Jays in order in the bottom half of the inning.
Three straight Tigers reached base to open the third, extending their lead.
Jackson led off another inning with a base hit, singling to left. Dirks drew a base on balls. Hunter channelized his inner Cabrera, lashing an RBI double off the left field fence to drive in Jackson and send Dirks to third, putting the Tigers up 3-0.
With one down and Martinez at the plate, Dirks was off on contact, but Martinez hit a comebacker to Rogers. Caught in no-man's land, Dirks was tagged out in a rundown as Hunter took third on the fielder's choice.
In need of a two-out hit, Peralta legged out an astroturf-aided RBI double to right center, Hunter scoring to give the Tigers a 4-0 advantage (MLB.com video). That was RBI double number three for the Tigers in three innings.
In the meantime, Verlander was mowing down Blue Jays, yet to allow a base runner. He needed only seven pitches in the second and third innings to set the Jays down in order.
After 11 straight had been retired, the Jays finally got to Verlander in the fourth. Edwin Encarnacion singled off his fists with two out. Verlander proceeded to make Adam Lind look silly, striking him out with a wicked breaking ball to end the inning.
Verlander pitched into his first jam of the night in the fifth. One down, Izturis reached on an infield single. Ramon Santiago made a nice play going behind the bag to flag the grounder down, but Izturis beat the throw. Verlander proceeded to walk Rajai Davis. Izturis went to third on Arencibia's fly out. That's as far as Izturis would go, as Jays fan favorite, the .221 hitting Munenori Kawasaki, ended the threat with a can of corn to left.
The bottom of the fifth was Verlander's first extended inning, needing 27 pitches to retire the side.
The Tigers put their first two runners on in the sixth, the much-derided Santiago and Kelly reaching on back-to-back singles. Jackson came through with his third hit of the game, singling to left to drive in Santiago as Davis airmailed the throw home.
The Tigers up 5-0, Jays skipper John Gibbons was forced to go to his exhausted bullpen. Right-hander Neil Wagner got the call.
Dirks hit a fly ball to center, deep enough to advance both runners into scoring position. The Jays pulled the infield in, but Hunter drove in his second run of the game with sacrifice fly to center, Kelly scoring, Jackson taking third.
Already up 6-0, Fielder's big-man speed led to the third run of the inning. He hit a high chopper over the mound, Jose Reyes hurrying his throw, sailing it over the head of Lind at first. Jackson scored to make it a 7-0 game, Fielder somewhat generously credited with an RBI and an infield single.
With all the inherited runners scoring, Rogers' final line was brutal: 5 IP, 11 H, 7 R.
Verlander was hitting high 90s with his fastball in sixth, but needed to start a 1-6-3 double play off the bat of Lind to get out of a one-out, two-on jam.
Verlnader was looking to be on track for a complete game after four innings, but a couple of longish innings looked to have derailed that hope. A short 15 pitch 1-2-3 seventh had Verlander at 102 pitches. With Drew Smyly and Joaquin Benoit taking the night off, it meant Jim Leyland would try to squeeze one more inning out of his ace.
That plan changed with one swing of Austin Jackson's bat.
If it wasn't a blowout at 7-0, it sure was at 9-0. Kelly led off the eighth with a double and rode home on Jackson's no-doubt home run which reached the second deck in left center. Jackson's big fly was number five for the season.
At that point, Bruce Rondon and Phil Coke started warming up in the Tigers' bullpen. Verlander would take a seat.
It was Coke who got the call in the bottom of the eighth. He immediately allowed a single to Arencibia (a right-handed hitter, of course). Coke then got a "It's 9-0, lets get the Hell out of here" call from second base ump Alan Porter, helping the lefty out of the inning. The light-hitting Kawasaki sent a comebacker to Coke, who fired low to Peralta covering second. Despite never having full control of the ball, the Tigers got the out call at second. Coke pitched out the inning without incident, thank goodness.
Called on to get some work in the ninth, Jays closer Casey Janssen decided to really get some work in by allowing base runners, starting with a Santiago double. He proceeded to plunk Kelly, then walk Jackson to load the bases. Janssen was yanked by Gibbons for Aaron Loup after walking in a run, Dirks getting the easy RBI.
In ninth-inning garbage time, Loup gave up a sacrifice fly to Hunter to make it 11-0 Tigers.
Darin Downs pitched the ninth as Leyland emptied his bench by having Brayan Pena take over for Fielder at first base. Downs allowed a two-out run as Jays fans let loose with a sarcastic cheer.
Your final score is Tigers 11, Blue Jays 1. Also, USA 3, Canada 1. The Tigers win the series, taking three out of four from the Jays on a marvelous Independence Day. Let's hope the Tigers put the revenge ridiculousness on the back burner and concentrate on beating the Tribe over the weekend.
At 46-38 on the season, the win extends the Tigers' Central lead to 1 1/2 games over the Indians, who blew a 5-0 lead in a 10-7 loss to the Royals. The first place Tigers now head to Cleveland to start a three-game series Friday night with the second place Tribe.
Rick Porcello (4-6, 5.21 ERA) is staring down the barrel of a six-game suspension (pending appeal), but he will take his regular rotation turn against the Tribe. Porcello will face Justin Masterson (10-6, 3.48 ERA), who is coming off a six-hit shutout of the woeful White Sox. First pitch at
The Jake Progressive Field is 7:05 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
RockNRye with the question of the day in the game thread:
Why are the Blue Jays wearing the Independence Day hats?
BadCompany22 had the answer:
More shocking than the Tigers taking an early lead was Prince Fielder's textbook popup slide when he advanced on a wild pitch. Everyone was expecting something closer to these.
Not that anyone expected a purpose pitch with one suspension hanging over a starting pitcher already, but Justin Verlander answered the retaliation question in the second inning. Facing Colby Rasmus, Verlander retired him on a first pitch fly out to deep left center.
Opposing views on the Andy Dirks in 2012 vs Colby Rasmus in 2013 slides:
Dave Hogg of the AP paraphrases Rod Allen, who last night blamed Omar Infante for not getting out of the way:
Interesting that Rod Allen just acknowledged that there's zero difference between the Dirks and Rasmus slides.— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) July 4, 2013
Our own Rob Rogacki disagrees with the Terror of Japan:
God dammit Rod, Dirks' play is a slide, not a flying tackle— BYB Rob (@Detroit4lyfeRob) July 4, 2013
But I think Grey nails it:
Rod and Mario seem to be trying to walk the line after they were okay with the slide last night but the entire team hated it— Grey (@spacemnkymafia) July 4, 2013
When asked by Mario Impemba if a player can stop and get back to the bag on a contact play, Rod semi-dissed Dirks when he said:
"Miguel can do it! Guys that have outstanding base running instincts."
Sorry, Dirks. Your instincts just aren't good enough.
Meanwhile, on the MLB Network:
Watching MLB Network with no sound, but I think Mitch Williams is telling everyone how he'd act if he was an airplane— Patrick Mayo (@ThePME) July 4, 2013
Don Kelly had the June of his freaking life, hitting .346/.379/.500. It's carried over to July for Donnie Baseball. In his first two at-bats, Kelly drilled two line drives, one for a base hit. On his third plate appearance, Kelly pulled off the hit-and-run, singling through the left side hole. Eighth inning, Kelly led off the inning with a double. Jays' closer Casey Janssen hit Kelly in the ninth to end a night where Donnie Baseball reached base four times.
Rasmus extended the inning for the Jays in the fourth, muffing Dirks' line drive to center for an E-8. The fan base exploded, as you might expect.
LolRasmus— Brian A. (@pharmy1917) July 5, 2013
HEY RASMUS DID THE BALL SLIDE TOWARD YOUR GLOVE LATE— Fake Jim Leyland (@FakeLeyland) July 5, 2013
Further proof that the baseball gods exist— BYB Rob (@Detroit4lyfeRob) July 5, 2013
Edwin Encarnacion's fourth-inning single was quite rare:
That's the first hit Verlander has allowed outside the United States since August, 2010.— Dave Hogg (@Stareagle) July 5, 2013
Rasmus and Verlander battled hammer-and-tong in a long fifth-inning at-bat. After fouling off several full count pitches, Verlander finally retired Rasmus on the 12th pitch, a ground ball to third.
Meanwhile, with the Mud Hens:
Valverde with a 1-2-3 9th #neveradoubt— Grey (@spacemnkymafia) July 5, 2013
I'm not sure if I should be happy or terrified. God help us all.
Joey Bats was a tad miffed after being punched out on strikes in the sixth, showing up the umpire by standing at the plate and jawing. Bautista was still stewing in the dugout when caught on camera.
Who sulks more after a strikeout, BJ Upton or Joey Bats? Discuss... pic.twitter.com/jb4ocYJEEX— Cork Gaines (@CorkGaines) July 5, 2013
The verdict on Justin Verlander tonight was unanimous. Vintage Verlander had returned.
Verlander throwing 97-98 mph fastballs sustained, changing speeds, dropping curveballs. This might be the best stuff he has thrown all year.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) July 5, 2013
In the ninth, we saw Brayan Pena, first baseman. Yes, the Food Truck was on the field and not wearing the tools of ignorance. Pena made a nice play in his half inning at first, making an unassisted putout with a back handed grab off the short hop.
Things were more than comfy in the Tigers' dugout.
Gene and Jimmy getting awfully cozy in the dugout there— Paul Wezner (@TigsTown) July 5, 2013
Also note Lelyand is rocking the red, white and blue Phiten necklace.
Austin Jackson: It doesn't get much better for a lead-off man than 4-for-5, four runs scored, three RBIs and a long home run, reaching base five times.
Justin Verlander: I think he's fixed the mechanical issue - 7 IP, 3 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K, 102 pitches, 68 strikes and a fastball topping out at 98 MPH in the sixth.
Don Kelly: Getting the start at third base in place of Cabrera, Kelly was a Cabrera-esque 3-for-4, reaching base four times, scoring two runs.
Torii Hunter: Three RBIs out of the three spot in place of Cabrera? You get a ROAR.
Ramon Santiago: How often will I have a chance to give the 25th man on the roster a roar? Santiago earned one tonight, ably filling in for Infante with solid defense, two hits and two runs.
Alex Avila: Just when you think he's coming out of his season long tailspin, Avila doesn't hit the ball hard in an 0-for-5 night. But also remember the Tigers are 3-0 since Avila returned to the lineup, so he's got that, which is nice.
Colby Rasmus: Still think the slide was dirty, but I'm THRILLED the Tigers didn't get caught up in head hunting. Victory is best served coldly in revenge, or something like that.
MLB's Independence Day caps: Ugly, ugly, ugly.
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Alex Avila's two hits, home run and three RBIs nipped Max Scherzer remaining undefeated at 13-0 for PotG by four votes, 48% to 45%.