DETROIT -- Justin Verlander made his first start on Tuesday, a mediocre one, since missing his last start due to mid-back tightness. The Detroit Tigers bounced back thanks to J.D. Martinez's clutch late-innings home run, but that's the last they would get and lost 5-4 to the Pittsburgh Pirates after five hours and 30 minutes of play.
Verlander's command of the strike zone was elusive. In the first inning alone he faced six batters, walked three, and gave up a leadoff single to start the game. Miraculously, no runs scored in the first, largely in part because of James McCann's cannon of an arm that threw out Neil Walker at second base. Verlander wasn't so lucky in the second inning, allowing a single, double, sacrifice fly, and his fourth walk of the game.
The third he gave up two on a bunt single, double that nearly was a home run, an RBI that reached on a fielding error by Miguel Cabrera, and another sac fly. By the end of three innings pitched, the Tigers were in a 3-0 hole. Yet, Verlander managed to make it through six innings and a batter without allowing more than the three runs, getting his first 1-2-3 inning in the sixth. He struck out only three batters but touched 96 mph.
Al Alburquerque, who replaced Verlander after Verlander pitched 103 pitches and walked the first batter of the seventh inning, got a flyout and struck out two batters, not allowing a run to score. Verlander finished with six hits, three runs (two earned), five (!) walks, three strikeouts, two hit batters (one in retaliation of Victor Martinez being plunked), and two sac flies for his third start of the year. Not great, but not awful. Just your plain old quality start.
Once again the Tigers offense struggled. They had just six hits through six innings, and despite an RBI ground-rule double by James McCann in the fifth with no outs, the team couldn't capitalize on the opportunity. Nick Castellanos was on-base twice with two singles, Victor Martinez reached twice via a double and a hit by pitch, and J.D. Martinez singled twice, but they were just 2-for-9 with runners in scoring position and stranded six runners.
However, in the seventh Ian Kinsler scorched an RBI double to left field that plated McCann from second, putting the Tigers within a run. With two outs Cabrera couldn't tie the game, but in the eighth J.D. Martinez came through big time when he drilled a pitch to left, a two-run blast to tie the game and keep the Tigers alive into extras. Unfortunately, and despite a superb effort by Alex Wilson's 3 1/3 scoreless innings, Tom Gorzelanny gave up the winning run in the 14th inning, taking the loss.
James McCann: After delivering the walkoff home run for the Tigers on Sunday, McCann put Detroit on the board on Tuesday night. He scorched an RBI ground-rule double after a 4:03 review, and was solid defensively -- he gunned down Neil Walker at second in the first, which saved a run. He later singled in the seventh to start the inning.
Ian Kinsler: Knocked an RBI double inside the third base bag, plating McCann for the Tigers' second run of the game.
J.D. "Clutch" Martinez: Earned the nickname "Country Strong" by FSD's Rod Allen on Tuesday night when he destroyed an 0-1 95 mph sinker, depositing it into the visiting bullpen in left field to tie the game. He also knocked two back-to-back singles in his previous at-bats, giving him a three-hit day.
Joba Chamberlain: It's not his fault that Brad Ausmus uses him in high leverage situations, but it is his responsibility to get the job done. And in an 0-2 count, his only batter faced to that point, Chamberlain gave up an RBI single before striking out the last batter in the eighth.
Tigers offense: Speaking of that offense, it had only one run to show for seven hits, a hit batter, and three scoring opportunities, one with a two batters on second and third and no outs situation. Even then, only J.D.'s home run marked the big moment of the night. Despite 17 hits to Pittsburgh's 15, they couldn't get it done, stranding 12 baserunners and finishing 3-for-15 with runners in scoring position.
Tom Gorzelanny: Wilson was at 56 pitches and the only other option in the bullpen was Thursday's starter. It was an impossible situation with no other non-starter option available. That being said, Gorzelanny can't handle big league pitchers and shouldn't have pitched in that situation. Put part of this on the offense, though, as they should've gotten more runs on their 17 hits.
STREAKS AND STATS:
- J.D. Martinez has 11 home runs in June, third-most in club history and the most since Mickey Tettleton had 11 in 1993.
- J.D. Martinez's three-hit day (two singles and the two-run homer) is his 21st multi-hit game of the season, and his fifth three-hit game of the season.
- J.D. Martinez's two-run home run in the eighth was the 24th home run of his career in the seventh inning or later, and his 18th in the eighth inning or later. #clutch
- J.D Martinez has 10 home runs and 21 RBI in his last 14 games, batting .345/.377/1.052 in that time.
- Victor Martinez finished 2-for-4 with a hit by a pitch in the fourth inning on Tuesday. Since returning from the DL on June 19, Martinez is batting .341/.386/.537 with a home run and four doubles in 41 at-bats.
- Anthony Gose's stolen base in the ninth was his 12th of the season, second-most on the team behind Rajai Davis, who has 14.
- Nick Castellanos finished three-for-five with three singles on Tuesday, giving him a three-hit day, his first of the 2015 season.
- Miguel Cabrera's intentional walk in the ninth inning marked his 13th of the season, most on the team, and second-most in Major League Baseball. Only the Arizona Diamondbacks' first baseman Paul Goldschmidt has more, with 18.
- Alex Wilson finished the month of June with a 1.12 ERA with eight strikeouts, having allowed just two earned runs and two walks in 16 1/3 innings pitched.
- Alex Wilson's 56 pitches thrown in 3 1/3 innings pitched marked a new major league career high. Prior to Tuesday night's outing the most Wilson had thrown was 48, on May 3, 2013 for the Red Sox vs. the Texas Rangers --his first season in the majors.
- James McCann's three-hit day was his 13th multi-hit game of the season, and his fifth three-hit game of the season.
- Tuesday night's 14-inning game marked the longest (by innings) for the Tigers since they played a 19-inning game at Toronto against the Blue Jays on August 10, 2014 (and I was hoping to never think of that game again).
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