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Mariners 8, Tigers 0: Hisashi Iwakuma shines with eight shutout innings, Phil Coke rocked in relief

Mariners' starter Hisashi Iwakuma was all but untouchable, throwing eight shutout innings. Justin Verlander was inefficient, yet allowed just three runs in seven innings. The Tigers' bullpen was rocked for five runs, Phil Coke taking the brunt of the damage.

Duane Burleson

Final - 9.18.2013 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 R H E
Seattle Mariners 0 2 0 0 0 1 0 4 1 8 8 1
Detroit Tigers 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 4 1
WP: Hisashi Iwakuma (13 - 6)
LP: Justin Verlander (13 - 12)

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Seattle Mariners' starting pitcher Hisashi Iwakuma snapped the Detroit Tigers' three game winning streak with a dominant performance, tossing eight scoreless innings in an 8-0 victory. The normally high scoring Tigers were shutout for the 11th time this season.

But the Tigers did get some good news on a bad night of baseball. Thanks to the Royals beating the Indians, their Magic Number for clinching a playoff berth was lowered to five.

Once Iwakuma (13-6) pitched out of a bases loaded jam in the fourth, he retired 12 of the last 13 Tigers he faced. Iwakuma gave up just four hits, striking out six, walking two before hitting the showers after eight innings.

For the Tigers, the Justin Verlander (13-12) who showed up was the inconsistent 2013 version. He allowed just three runs and four hits in seven innings of work. But Verlander was not just battling the Mariners, he battled his command. Pitching from behind most of the night, Verlander walked three, throwing 124 pitches in taking the loss.

"First four innings, I was very erratic." "I was laboring early." -Justin Verlander on his 12th loss

Once Verlander was pulled, Jim Leyland's playoff bullpen auditions didn't go well. Phil Coke, Al Alburquerque and Luke Putkonen allowed the game to spiral out of control, combining to allow five runs, four earned.

Three players had seven of the Mariners' eight hits. Justin Smoak led Seattle's offense with two hits, including a home run, and two RBIs. Michael Saunders doubled twice, driving in a pair. Franklin Gutierrez added three hits, driving in a run.

The Tigers had no offense to speak of, accounting for just four hits. The only Tiger to reach base more than once was Victor Martinez, walking twice to go with a single.

Going into the game, the Tigers' chances for a win didn't look good. Iwakuma entered the night with a 2.87 ERA, and had not allowed a run in two of his last three starts. Leyland countered with a weakened lineup. He rested Torii Hunter and Omar Infante by starting Don Kelly and Hernan Perez. Leyland also didn't have his best bullpen arms available, going with the aforementioned very shaky trio.

But as well as Iwakuma was pitching, even a loaded Tigers' lineup wasn't going to touch him. Iwakuma was that good. Once he started rolling, it was game over.

Top of one, Justin Verlander went to a full count before walking lead off man Dustin Ackley. Before any red flags could be hoisted or cries of "It's Jason Verlander tonight!" or "Here comes a 44 pitch inning!" could be heard, Verlander retired the next three Mariners in order.

But it wasn't a confidence inspiring inning either, with the lead off walk, a pair of full counts and 18 pitches.

Bottom half of the first, the Tigers loaded the bases against Mariners' starter Hisashi Iwakuma, starting with trigger man Don Kelly's one out infield single. Two out, Prince Fielder went the other way with a cue shot between the third base bag and Kyle Seager. Fielder lumbered into second with a seeing eye double, Kelly holding at third.

Victor Martinez at the plate, first base open and Matt Tuiasosopo on deck and in a horrific slump, the Mariners did the smartest thing they could do - intentionally walk Martinez.

The move paid off, to absolutely no one's surprise. Tuiasosopo, who is hitting (sad to say, "hitting" is being used generously) .185/.264/.231 in the second half, struck out, stranding three to end the threat.

The failed opportunity came back to bite the Tigers, thanks to the belated arrival of "Jason" Verlander.

For the second straight inning, Verlander walked the lead off man, .245 hitting Justin Smoak. Michael Saunders, owning a .245 batting average entering the game, lined a gapper to left center. Smoak just beat the relay, scoring all the way from first on the double. Rookie Nick Franklin raised his .215 average to .217 with a single to left center, Saunders scoring to give the Mariners a 2-0 lead.

A double play and a ground out ended the second inning. Verlander needed 34 pitches to get through two, but only 19 were for strikes. Oh. Hell. Feel free to break out a red flag or three.

Given a two run lead, Iwakuma got the shutdown inning he needed, the Tigers going down in order.

It was looking like one of THOSE nights. In fact, it was.

Without a ball leaving the infield, the Mariners put a pair of runners in scoring position with two out in the third. Franklin Gutierrez reached when his line drive hit Verlander in the leg for an infield single. He proceeded to steal second, because the that's what the opposition does against the Tigers. Verlander, still inefficient as Hell, went to a full count before walking Seager.

Kendry Morales' dribbler to first was essentially a bunt, moving the runners into scoring position with two down. This time around, Verlander was able to pitch out of trouble. Smoak struck out when he was unable to hold up on a breaking ball which dove into the dirt.

Hold the Mariners off board was nice, but Verlander was not going to be pitching deep into the game he continued to average 21 pitches an inning.

While the Tigers were unable to solve Iwakuma with their Sunday lineup, Verlander had his first stress free inning. Top of four, he set down the Mariners in order, though he did need 19 pitches to do so.

Bottom of four, Martinez manufactured a threat via his blazing speed. Seriously.

Martinez beat out a a bouncer up the middle, outrunning Franklin's Jeter-esque jump throw. The Mariners' second baseman failed miserably, his throw well over the head of Smoak. Credited with a single, Martinez continued around the bases by advancing to second on a wild pitch. Of course, it only bounced a few feet behind catcher Henry Blanco, who had trouble locating the ball as Martinez loped to second.

Iwakuma compounded the threat by walking Tuiasosopo. Seager really made things interesting, playing Alex Avila's swinging bunt into a error, overrunning a slow roller. Everyone was safe, the bases now loaded with one out.

Then the effect of playing a Sunday lineup on Wednesday kicked in, a scoring opportunity going to waste. Hernan Perez, making his first start since August 11, bounced into a 6-4-3 double play, bailing the Mariners out of a poorly played inning. It was also the Tigers' second base loaded squander in four innings.

It would be the Tigers' final squander as well. They never had an opportunity for more.

Verlander had settled in through five, sorting out his issues somewhat. He retired eight straight after walking Seager in the third. Though he had given up a mere three hits and the two runs, his pitch count was at an elevated 98. The hook would be coming sooner than later.

"He gave us a chance to win. We just ran into a buzz saw." -Jim Leyland, when asked about Justin Verlander's performance

Base runners had become few and far between. Both Iwakuma and Verlander had allowed just three hits each as the game entered the sixth.

Unfortunately, now is the "Verlander serves up an entirely unexpected home run" portion of the recap.

Having retired ten in a row, Verlander was cruising. But with two down in the top of the sixth, Smoak went the other way with a 91 MPH fastball low in the zone. The resulting fly ball found the bullpen in left. Smoak's 17th big fly increased the Mariners' lead to 3-zip. In six of his last eight starts (including a stretch of four straight starts in August), Verlander has allowed at least one home run.

Iwakuma was having no such problems. Helped by a great diving play by Seager to rob Fielder of a base hit, Iwakuma retired the side in order in the bottom half of the sixth. His pitch count stood a far more reasonable 82, on track for a 123 pitch complete game.

After setting the side down in order, Verlander was pulled by Jim Leyland after seven full innings. He wrapped up his night having allowed just three hits and three runs, striking out six. But he had walked three, pitching too deep into counts elevated his pitch count to 124 pitches.

I'm honestly torn over Verlander's performance. The numbers say it was a solid outing. The eyes say otherwise. The truth is somewhere in-between. But in the end, allowing three runs in seven innings should get you a W most nights. This wasn't one of them.

With Iwakuma dominating, three runs might just as well have been a thousand. The bottom of the seventh was another easy inning, the Tigers going down in order, having trouble making any solid contact.

Things go better with Coke. Unless it's Phil Coke you're talking about. Coke got the call in the eighth, taking over for Verlander as the crowd showed their displeasure.

One down, Coke allowed the obligatory smash, Gutierrez hitting a long ground rule double to dead center. Leyland then made the questionable decision to give Morales a free pass, preferring Coke pitch to Smoak. The strategy failed. Why? Phil Coke.

"I'll make this simple. Phil's just not making good enough pitches to get big league hitters out right now." -Jim Leyland on Phil Coke's struggles

Smoak singled to left, driving in his second run of the night. Saunders followed by lining a double into the right field corner, pinch runner Endy Chavez racing around the bases, scoring all the way from first.

Down 5-0, Leyland ordered another intentional pass, this time to Franklin. Sure, lets load the bases by giving a free pass to someone who entered the game hitting .215.

The damage done and the game essentially over, Leyland pulled Coke, who wasn't fooling a soul.

For the second straight game, Leyland continued playoff bullpen tryouts (all I can figure, given the decision making over the last two games), going with Al Alburquerque.

Live by Alburquerque, die by Alburquerque.

The Tigers died by Albuquerque.

Facing Blanco with the bases full, Al-Al uncorked a slider into the dirt, the wild pitch allowing Smoak to slide home with the third run of the inning. Making a bad situation worse, Alburquerque couldn't handle Avila's throw to the plate, bouncing far enough away to allow Saunders to score without a play. The error was ultimately, and correctly, charged to Alburquerque,

Blanco flew out to finally end an awful inning. Coke and Alburquerque combined to give up four runs on three hits and two walks. Actually, all the runs, hits and walks were charged to Coke, Alburquerque just putting a bow on a crap package with his wild pitch.

Up 7-0, the only question left was if Iwakuma would get his complete game shutout. After a 1-2-3 eighth. he needed just three more outs.

Top of nine, it was Luke Putkonen's turn to be pulled out the Tigers' bullpen clown car. He fit right in with the hilarity (or futility, take your pick), serving up a no-doubt solo shot to Gutierrez to make it 8-0 Mariners.

Keep this in mind as well. If Putkonen, Albuquerque and/or Coke even make the playoff roster, any appearances they make will be in garbage time. No way in Hell will they see high leverage situations.

Having thrown 105 pitches and the Tigers having waved the white flag by using the soft-white underbelly part of their bullpen, Iwakuma wasn't going to get the complete game. Eric Wedge went to the bullpen for the meaningless ninth, right-hander Danny Farquhar getting the call.

Farquhar struck out Avila, his high school teammate, to end an ugly loss.

Game over.

Your final score is Mariners 8, Tigers 0.

As bad as this game had been, it doesn't change facts.

Moving on...

Their three game winning streak snapped, the Tigers fall to 88-64 (.579). Their lead in the Central holds at six, the Magic Number drops to a mere five. The Tigers are still playing decently on the home stand, currently 4-2 with four regular season games left to play at Comerica Park

The series and season finale with the Mariners has rookie James Paxton (2-0, 0.75 ERA) taking the mound against Doug Fister (12-9, 3.67 ERA).

Paxton, a 6-4, 220 pound left-hander, will be making his third career big league start. He's had mechanical issues as a minor leaguer, but everything is working in concert since his September call up, allowing just two runs and six hits in 12 innings. Paxton hasn't beaten stiffs, either. His two victories have come against playoff contending teams, the Rays and Cardinals.

Fister has dominated his former team since the 2011 steal trade, owning a 1.29 ERA in two career starts. The Tall Man was victimized by a lack of run support in his last appearance, pitching into the eighth in a frustrating 1-0 loss to the Royals.

It's getaway day for the Mariners, meaning an afternoon start. First pitch is scheduled for 1:08 PM


Source: FanGraphs


I sense a trend...

Trust me, these aren't bandwagon fans by any means. Just frustrated ones.

Things we learned about Rod Allen tonight? He can't grow a nice crop of facial hair.

"I'm fifty years old and I can't grow a beard!"

Alex Avila points and laughs!

Meanwhile in the Tigers' radio booth, Jim Price took much offense to Austin Jackson getting punched out in the fifth.

I have to admit, the pitch looked out of the zone to me. Jackson wasn't all that happy about the call, either.


You knew it was coming...

If you were wondering what happened to Brayan Pena, he's still around. Jim Leyland found him in the dark recesses of the dugout, making his first appearance since September 9 and only his fourth of the month. Pena flew out pinch hitting in the ninth.


Justin Verlander: Pitched very well for long stretches, retiring ten in a row at one point. If the Tigers' offense does ANYTHING, Verlander pitched well enough to win. Remember, the stats says Verlander had a quality start.


Justin Verlander: But did Verlander's start really pass the eye test? Once again, Verlander was effective for long stretches, but damn, can he be inconsistent. He was pitching behind or deep in the count far too often. Just as it seemed the Mariners were under control, Verlander served up a homer to Justin freaking Smoak.

Anyone using timber: Shutout for an 11th time. Even when Iwakuma was in trouble, he wasn't getting hit hard.

The bullpen's soft-white underbelly: Of the three relievers used, no one made a case to be on the post season roster. They all made good cases to be left off, however. So that helps!


Roll Call Info
Total comments 820
Total commenters 43
Commenter list Alex Baker, AwesomeJackson, BadCompany22, Beejeez, Bent82, BigAl, DJ Screw, Designated for Assignment, HookSlide, J_the_Man, Jacob30, Jeff Price, Joaquin on Sunshine, KGW, Keith-Allen, MSUDersh, Michigan&TrumbullinLA, Muttcutts, NCDee, RationalSportsFan, RealityIsOptionable, SabreRoseTiger, SanDiegoMick, Scherzerblueeye, ShowingBunt, Singledigit, SpartanBoiler, SpartanHT, Tbone Tiger, Tigerdog1, TomduhB, Verlanderful, aelix, ahtrap, jcbeckman, josejose50, kland83, knucklescarbone, lesmanalim, rbbaker, stevenyc, swish330, texastigerfan
Story URLs


# Commenter # Comments
1 SabreRoseTiger 91
2 SanDiegoMick 85
3 Scherzerblueeye 82
4 swish330 57
5 Singledigit 57
6 stevenyc 52
7 Joaquin on Sunshine 44
8 Tigerdog1 41
9 SpartanHT 30
10 rbbaker 27
11 texastigerfan 27
12 DJ Screw 27
13 Jacob30 27


# Recs Commenter Comment Link
2 SanDiegoMick Just read Hookslide's story about his day with his son
2 NCDee Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz......


Even through there were several candidates to choose from, Anibal Sanchez and Don Kelly stood out. Sanchez's quality start was just enough to top Donnie Baseball playing a part in half of the Tigers' runs, 32% to 31%.

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