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Indians 5, Tigers 4: Bullpen blunders ruin Justin Verlander's debut

The Tigers were unable to give Verlander a win in his season debut, dropping a close contest to the Tribe.

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

DETROIT -- Justin Verlander made his 2015 season debut for the Tigers on Saturday. While not a dominant performance, he did put up five solid innings, before the bullpen coughed up the slim lead the offense had built early on. J.D. Martinez homered to cut into the deficit, but the Tigers lost 5-4 to the Indians with the tying run at third base.

Verlander had a solid start, allowing just one hit through his first three innings pitched for the Tigers. Until the fifth inning, his only mistake was a fastball to Carlos Santana, who smoked the pitch into the right field seats for a home run. The fifth inning was when Verlander got into trouble, walking two and allowing a single to load the bases. A sacrifice fly by Jason Kipnis drove in a run, but Verlander dialed it up to 97 mph and got out of the fifth without further damage. After five innings of two-run ball, Verlander's day was done.

Brought in to start the sixth, Blaine Hardy got just one out and gave up two runs. Both hits he allowed were hard-hit, the second being an RBI triple. Though the second run -- a sac fly by Yan Gomes -- came with Alex Wilson on the mound, the runner at third was Hardy's responsibility. After six innings of baseball, what was once a 3-0 lead for the Tigers had become a 4-3 deficit.

The Tigers' 1-3-4-5 hitters either drove in a run, scored a run, or had a multiple-hit day. As for Nick Castellanos and James McCann, they went a combined 0-for-8 with five strikeouts, McCann accounting for four of those and ending a bases-loaded opportunity in the first. The Tigers struck out 12 times and left 10 runners on-base, despite 12 hits.

The abysmal offensive support by Castellanos and McCann struck yet again, though, and gave the Indians two outs before Jose Iglesias and Anthony Gose both singled, giving the Tigers life in the eighth. Unfortunately, Rajai Davis wasn't able to drive in the tying run and the Tigers went into the ninth trailing 5-4.

J.D. Martinez had a standout day, finishing 2-for-3 with a home run, double, and a walk. But despite a one-out walk by Cabrera in the ninth, and a single by Yoenis Cespedes, the Tigers couldn't get it done -- Martinez grounding into a double play to end the game.


Justin Verlander: For his first start of the 2015 season, Verlander did well. He finished with just two runs on three hits through five innings pitched, striking out two. He gave up a home run, but that's what Santana does against Verlander.

3-4-5: Cabrera, Cespedes, and J.D. Martinez were a combined 7-for-13 with two walks, a fielder's choice, and a reach on an error by the Indians' third baseman. Cabrera and Martinez accounted for an RBI apiece, and Cespedes and Martinez both scored runs. Martinez had a spectacular day, getting a home run in the eighth, as well as an RBI double earlier and a walk.

Jose Iglesias: Reached base twice on a single to center and a hit by pitch, stole a base, and scored from second on Davis' RBI double. He also singled in the eighth with two outs and provided his usual dazzling defense. (h/t to Martinez for making two solid catches in right field, too)


Blaine Hardy: Two hits, two runs, one out. His brief outing tied the game, and the runner left at third when he exited crossed home plate on Gomes' sac fly with Alex Wilson pitching.

6-7 batters: Where the middle of the lineup produced well, Nick Castellanos and James McCann did the opposite. They struck out back-to-back in the first, ruining a bases-loaded opportunity in the first. McCann struck out three times, and Castellanos ended two innings with runners on-base. They finished a combined 0-for-8 with five strikeouts.

The bullpen: Stunk. Gave up the go-ahead run after the Tigers had lead 3-1 at one point, making it a 5-3 deficit. These series' between the Tigers and Indians are typically close, but it doesn't help when the bullpen picks the worst day to collapse yet again. Just once, imploding during a blowout win would be nice.

Ian Kinsler: Finished 0-for-5 with a strikeout. Never good.

Rajai Davis: Nailed a triple to start the game for the Tigers offense, and scored on Cabrera's RBI single. He also doubled in the fourth, scoring Jose Iglesias. He did, however, strike out in the eighth, stranding the tying run at second base. After starting 2-for-3 he finished 2-for-5 and failed to drive in key runs. For this, he gets a hiss.


  • Rajai Davis' triple was his sixth of the season, which leads the Tigers and Major League Baseball. Phillies' Ben Revere and Royals' Paulo Orlando are tied for second, with five apiece. Davis' double in the fourth marked his ninth multi-hit game o the season, and his 13th extra-base hit.
  • Justin Verlander gave up his first home run of the 2015 season to Carlos Santana in the fourth, a solo shot to right. It was the sixth home run Verlander has given up to Santana, and only Jim Thome has more home runs off Verlander, with seven.
  • Jose Iglesias has hit safely in 14 of his last 16 games, batting .357 with five runs scored, two doubles, and three RBI during that stretch.
  • Jose Iglesias successfully stole second in the fourth after being hit by a pitch, his eighth of the season for a career-high. The two hits by Iglesias also marked his 13th multi-hit game this season.
  • Miguel Cabrera has reached base in 29 of his last 30 games, and his hit safely in 23 of his last 28. Cabrera finished 2-for-3 with a reach on an error and a walk, giving him his 19th multi-hit game of the season.
  • Yoenis Cespedes finished with three hits and a fielder's choice, marking his 24th multi-hit game of the season, and his seventh game with at least three hits. Cespedes leads the team in multi-hit games, and ranks third in the AL. He has now hit safely in seven straight games, a season-long hitting streak to collect multiple hits in four of his last seven games.
  • J.D. Martinez's solo home run in the eighth marked his 11th this season. Martinez also recorded his 15th multi-hit game of the season, finishing 2-for-3 with a walk, run scored, a double and two RBI.
  • The sellout crowd of 41,620 at Comerica Parked marked the highest attendance since Opening Day.


Source: FanGraphs