DETROIT — The Tigers took the first of a three-game series against the Royals, coming within one game of a tie for the AL Central lead. Justin Verlander gave the Tigers a solid outing and the Tigers offense took advantage of mistakes by the Royals. They won 9-5, backed by solid defense and a shutdown ninth inning by Joe Nathan.
Verlander (13-12) kept the Royals quiet for six innings, pitching three 1-2-3 innings and allowing just two runs on three hits. He enduced four strikeouts (all swinging) and did not allow an extra-base hit until the seventh inning when he gave up two additional runs. Verlander's 13th win also gave the Tigers their 9,000th win in franchise history, a good start to the most critical series to date this season.
"I thought his curveball was much better than his last outing," manager Brad Ausmus said. "His command of his fastball's much better, his velocity was consistently higher from pitch-one till his last pitch."
A leadoff triple in the seventh came around to score on the groundout RBI by Billy Butler, but for once Verlander kept Butler grounded for the entire day as he finished 0-4. Salvador Perez had done damage against the Tigers coming into the game, but Verlander kept him off the bases as well, Perez's day ending a silent 0-4 with two strikeouts.
Only Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain would get multiple hits off Verlander. Cain did the most damage, hitting an inside-the-park home run that nearly took Torii Hunter out of the game on a hard collision with center fielder, Don Kelly.
"It's one of those balls that is right in between," Kelly said. "I didn't hear him call it, and I called it late, because I didn't know if I was — I didn't want to call it and not be able to get there."
A last-ditch attempt to veer away from Hunter's path was unsuccessful and the two collided violently. Hunter had actually caught the ball, but the force of the collison knocked both the ball and the glove out of Hunter's hand, and Cain scored. Kelly then went to check Hunter's glove, not knowing where the ball was.
"I did. Because I heard it go in his glove," Kelly said. "That's why I checked his glove, because I thought maybe his glove came off with the ball still in it. But I must've knocked the ball out when I ran into him."
Hunter passed concussion tests given by head athletic trainer Kevin Rand and Hunter remained in the game. He went on the drive a leadoff double and scored on an RBI single by Miguel Cabrera in the eighth, but Ausmus took Hunter out of the game when Hunter stated he had a minor headache. Additional concussion tests confirmed Hunter was alright but the Tigers took him out just in case, not wanting to risk it at that point.
The offense took full advantage of early defensive mistakes made by Hosmer and Omar Infante. Hosmer was charged with two errors in the second inning, both a fielding and throwing error that allowed two runners to score and put the Tigers on the board. Infante was slow to turn a double play in the third and it kept the inning going for the Tigers, who would go on to put up a six-spot against the Royals on eight hits and three straight doubles.
"Huge. I mean, for lack of a better word, it was huge," Andrew Romine said. "Obviously this series is our biggest series of the season. Whether or not we're playing for first place, or if we were playing for third or fourth, all we've got is today. We're going to come today like it's going to get us into the playoffs. Obviously there was some good energy, everybody was excited."
Justin Verlander: Six strong innings were capped by a decent seventh. Verlander gave up two runs in his final inning, but overall it was a solid outing considering recent struggles. He struck out four and had three 1-2-3 innings, including a 12-pitch second and a 10-pitch fifth inning.
Royals defense: Avila drew a walk to load the bases with two outs. Andrew Romine hit a weak grounder that Eric Hosmer had an easy play with, but he bobbled it and Romine reached safely running at full speed. A second error was charged to Hosmer on the throw to first that allowed Romine to advance to second base and the Tigers took a 2-0 lead. The inability of the Royals to turn a 6-4-3 double play kept the third inning going and the Tigers went on to plate six runs.
Third inning: The Tigers sent 11 men to the plate, put up six runs on eight hits and knocked three straight doubles. Don Kelly started onslaught with an RBI double that barely squeaked fair down the first base line. Nick Castellanos and Alex Avila would follow with doubles of their own, Castellanos plating two runners. Hunter would also finish 2-2 in the third inning. (MLB.com video)
Victor Martinez/Torii Hunter: Martinez recorded three hits with an RBI and scoring a run. Hunter also had three hits with an RBI and scoring twice. Hunter also toughed out a horrible collision in the outfield.
Joe Nathan: He hadn't pitched since September 2 but Nathan didn't let it effect him as he closed out the game without allowing a hit.
Ian Kinsler: The only Tiger without a hit, Kinsler was 0-5 for the afternoon.
Joba Chamberlain: An inefficient and messy eighth inning gave the Royals another run on two hits and a walk.
Torii Hunter and Don Kelly were involved with a near-miss early in the game. In the seventh inning Hunter and Kelly collided and Hunter hit the back of his head on the ground after the collision. He did not get back up for several minutes and Lorenzo Cain scored on an inside-the-park home run. Head athletic trainer Kevin Rand and Ausmus were in the outfield for a while before allowing Hunter to remain in the game.
Miguel Cabrera earned a share of the AL Player of the Week honors, alongside Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz. Cabrera bat .500/.500/1.067 with five home runs, two doubles, eight runs scored and nine RBI in that time.
Joe Nathan hasn't pitched since September 2 when he allowed just one hit en-route to earning his 29th save as the Tigers won 4-2 against the Indians. Ausmus said Monday that Nathan had been dealing with some slight "elbow tenderness" but after several days off it had been handled and Nathan would be available to pitch if needed. He went on to close the ninth for the Tigers in lockdown fashion.
The 2015 schedule for the Tigers was announced on Monday.
The decision to DH Cabrera was made Sunday night. Ausmus did not discuss the decision with Cabrera, opting to DH him after watching Cabrera's gait as he rounded the bases in the seventh inning.
Joakim Soria threw a simulated game Monday and experienced no pain. He threw all of his pitches in 27 pitches, was not fatigued and felt good afterwards. Ausmus will check with Soria on Tuesday to see how he's feeling, and if all is well then Soria will return to the lineup.
Anibal Sanchez had a light toss for the second consecutive day with no issues. Ausmus said that Sanchez will throw again on Tuesday and continue to do so until the Tigers feel he can throw from off the mound.
STREAKS AND STATS:
- Victor Martinez singled in the second inning, giving him a 27-game on-base streak, the longest active streak in the majors. It also increased his hitting streak to nine games.
- The Tigers scored six unanswered runs in the third inning off Royals starting pitcher Jeremy Guthrie. It's the most runs and earned runs that he has given up in Comerica Park.
- Nick Castellanos is the 10th rookie in franchise history to have 30 doubles in a season, and the first since Austin Jackson had 34 in 2010.
- The Tigers' eight hits in the third inning tie a season high. The last time it happened was July 10 in the fifth inning at Kansas City against the Royals. Guthrie was the pitcher.
- Andrew Romine stole his 10th base of the season in the seventh inning.
- Miguel Cabrera recorded his fourth straight multi-hit game with a single in the third and an RBI single in the eighth. He has at least two hits in seven of his last eight games.
- Torii Hunter's two hits in the third innings was the second time this season a Tigers player recorded two hits in an inning, and the first time since Eugenio Suarez collected two extra-base hits in the foruth inning on June 14 against the Twins.
- Victor Martinez got three hits Monday, picking up his 13th game of the season with three-or-more hits. He is batting .410 with six doubles, seven home runs and 28 RBI over his past 27 games.
- The eight hits by the Tigers in the third inning are tied for the most hits in an inning by the team this season. They also recorded eight hits in an inning on July 8 and July 10.
- The win gave the Tigers their 9,000th win in franchise history. The Tigers won their first game on April 25, 1901 by a score of 14-13 over the Brewers.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
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