Justin Verlander pitched well enough to get another win, but a blown save from newly anointed closer Bruce Rondon sent tonight's game between the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros into extra innings. However, the Tigers shook their usual free baseball woes and scored three runs in the top of the 11th inning for a 4-2 win.
Both starters were sharp early on. Justin Verlander gave up a leadoff single to Jose Altuve, but immediately picked him off first base. He would not allow another hit until the fourth inning, when Carlos Correa reached base on a single. Meanwhile, Astro starter Collin McHugh scattered a few early hits, but matched zeroes with Verlander through four innings.
The Tigers finally broke the scoreless tie with a two-out rally in the top of the fifth inning. After two quick outs, Anthony Gose drew a walk, then stole second base without a throw. Ian Kinsler lined the next pitch into left field, where Preston Tucker appeared to make a sliding catch. However, video review confirmed that the ball landed on the ground, and Tucker tried to sell the catch as well as possible. The review awarded Gose two bases on the play, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead. Astros manager A.J. Hinch was ejected after arguing the reviewed call, much to the delight of the Astros crowd.
That would be all the run support Verlander would need. He worked seven shutout innings, striking out seven while only allowing three hits. Correa was the only hitter that gave Verlander any trouble, reaching base three times. Verlander did not allow multiple baserunners in any innings, and left the game after a relatively stress-free 107 pitches.
Blaine Hardy and Alex Wilson combined for a scoreless eighth inning, but it didn't take long for the Astros to tie the game in the ninth. Preston Tucker fell behind 1-2, but turned around a 100 mile-per-hour Bruce Rondon fastball and launched a missile into the right field seats, tying the game at one. Rondon was able to quietly close out the inning with the score tied, sending the game to extras.
After a scoreless 10th inning, the Tigers offense finally found its groove in the 11th. The first five hitters to face Astros reliever Pat Neshek reached base, resulting in three runs before Houston could record an out. Reliever Tony Sipp got three outs without allowing another run, but the damage was done. Neftali Feliz allowed a run in the bottom of the 11th, but closed out the game for his first save in a Tigers uniform.
Justin Verlander: It's tough to call this a fluke now. Verlander was dominant once again, showing plenty of zip on his fastball. He worked seven scoreless innings and induced 10 flyouts while striking out seven.
Anthony Gose: Gose all but manufactured the Tigers' lone run by himself. He worked a seven-pitch walk with two outs in the fifth, then stole second base to get into scoring position. Whether he would have scored on Kinsler's sharply hit single is up for interpretation, but his speed is why the Tigers held a 1-0 lead for so long tonight. He also made an excellent diving catch in the ninth inning.
The bullpen: Sure, Rondon gave up a game-tying homer, but the Tigers had four relievers combine for just one run and two hits in three innings of work before Feliz mopped things up in the 11th. Rondon deserves credit for not getting rattled by the home run, while Alburquerque worked a scoreless 10th for the win.
The offense: Once again, the Tigers' bats disappeared with Verlander on the mound. They were only able to muster one run on five hits before the game went to extra innings, and have not scored more than two runs in a Verlander start since the All-Star break.
STREAKS AND STATS:
- In his last seven starts, Verlander has a 2.85 ERA with 42 strikeouts and seven walks in 47 1/3 innings. He has 29 strikeouts in his last four starts.
- Ian Kinsler's RBI single in the fifth inning was his 19th hit in 13 games in August.
- The Tigers have only scored 10 total runs in Verlander's last six starts.
- Al Alburquerque has a 1.70 ERA and a 0.99 WHIP since May 1. He has 45 strikeouts to 17 walks in 42 1/3 innings during that span.
- The Tigers are four games behind the Los Angeles Angels for the second AL wild card spot.
- Jose Iglesias' infield hit in the 11th inning was his 23rd of the season, which ranks third in the American League (Graphic via Fox Sports Detroit).
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH: