DETROIT — Justin Verlander may not be back to where he wants to be, but Friday's outing was a good start. The Tigers won 4-2 in the first of a three-game series against the Rockies despite being outhit and played a solid game with next to no defensive blunders to speak of.
The Tigers and the Rockies were locked in a race going into the bottom of the fifth inning, each team ending an inning so quickly the bottom of the fifth came after just one hour of game-time. The Tigers offense would strike first, however, as they collected three runs on four consecutive hits and back-to-back RBIs off the bats of Rajai Davis and Ian Kinsler.
Patience at the plate gave the Tigers six walks through seven innings and Torii Hunter and J.D. Martinez combined for four of those walks. Hunter drew back-to-back walks in the sixth and seventh innings while Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez accounted for the remaining two. On the heels of that patience, the Tigers collectively struck out only twice, once by Cabrera in the first inning and the other by Eugenio Suarez in the eighth.
Rajai Davis bat leadoff and started in center field for the Tigers with the departure of Austin Jackson to the Seattle Mariners and he spent his time on the field showing off his range. In just his sixth start in center field this season and as impressive as his defensive coverage was, Davis had a field day at the plate, collecting two RBI and scoring twice, both from first base.
"Rajai (Davis) always has an extra burst," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "That's the strongest part of his game is the speed and he can use it multiple ways on the bases, in the outfield."
While the offense gathered four runs, the Rockies were kept in check in no small part due to Verlander's efforts on the mound. Verlander struck out five batters through eight solid innings, but rather than let another late inning get away from him, Verlander escaped a seventh inning jam with minimal damage. He allowed eight hits but he did not walk a batter and three of his strikeouts ended an inning. All five batters struck out went down swinging away.
"The thing that really stood out was he threw some excellent curveballs today," Ausmus said. "He threw some really good ones, down in the zone. Got some chases, got some balls off the end of the bat, and I liked the fact that he went eight innings, of course."
Ausmus said Friday's outing was one of Verlander's better outings of the season, and while he is still working on his pitching, Verlander has been performing much better as of late. Verlander may not have touched 100 mph when he needed to get out of the seventh inning, but he was able to work around it and a 95 mph heater that struck out Brandon Barnes to end the inning did the trick.
Rajai Davis: Put the Tigers on the board 2-0 in the fifth inning with an RBI single that streaked up the middle, plating Bryan Holaday and Eugenio Suarez who'd scorched a single and a double accordingly. Davis later scored from first base on an RBI double by Ian Kinsler and hit a one-out single in the seventh inning. Defensively, Davis covered center field extremely well with multiple plays where he felt the need to show off his speed and range. (MLB.com video)
Ian Kinsler: After Davis' performance, Kinsler followed with one of his own by plating Davis with an RBI double and gave the Tigers a 3-0 lead. (MLB.com video)
Justin Verlander: Verlander figured out who he was and pitched deep into the eighth inning for just the third time this season. He had the Rockies off balance for all but the seventh inning and despite allowing two runs, Verlander recovered nicely and came out for the eighth inning with only 88 pitches. He finished the eighth inning with 101 pitches and a swinging strikeout of Barnes.
Victor Martinez: Joined the mini hit party and hit an RBI single in the seventh inning, scoring Davis to increase the Tigers' lead 4-2.
Castellanos/Holaday: A combination of a bad throw by Castellanos and a late tag by Holaday allowed the Rockies second run to score in the seventh inning. Castellanos also finished 0-4 for the night. (MLB.com video)
Rockies' Carlos Gonzalez made a spectacular diving catch in foul territory in right field, however, the injury-prone right fielder paid the price for aggressiveness and was removed from the game at the top of the sixth inning. Gonzalez was replaced by Brandon Barnes and Gonzalez officially left the game with a re-aggravated right ankle sprain.
CarGo deserves to take a nap after crashing into the wall... pic.twitter.com/uoTXjJPgyt— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) August 2, 2014
It wouldn't be a Rockies game if none of their star players got injured.— TB (@TomduhB) August 2, 2014
STREAKS AND STATS:
- Rajai Davis is hitting .361 with 29 RBI with runners in scoring position this season after his RBI single in the fifth inning.
- Joe Nathan earned his 22nd save of the season on Friday and in 10 games since July 2 Nathan has allowed seven hits, three runs and walked four. He has struck out 15 batters in that time and has a 2.70 ERA. With the exception of a disastrous outing during game two of the July 19 doubleheader, Nathan has not allowed a run to score since the start of July.
- Justin Verlander went eight innings for just the third time this season, the last, which occurred on April 6 against the Baltimore Orioles.
- Ian Kinsler collected his 39th multi-hit game of the season and is leading the team in that regard.
- The Tigers allowed two-or-fewer runs for the 33rd time this season and are 28-5 in that instance. By contrast, the Tigers were outhit 9-8 and are 9-38 in those situations, however they were able to hold onto the win.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
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