After handling recap duty for the last two games with Toronto, I was more than excited to watch Justin Verlander pitch. It is September so of course JV is great and the Royals were reeling with the news of a chicken pox epidemic so I figured that the Tigers might win or at least not give up five home runs. Mercifully, I was correct on both counts.
The Royals began this game strangely with two defensive miscues. The first came when Alcides Escobar tried to catch Gose off of first after a routine single. The ball went into the dugout and Gose went to third. Miguel Cabrera drove him home with a single, but when a routine fly ball off the bat of J.D. Martinez wasn't caught for some reason, Miguel Cabrera was thrown out at third by a mile. Another day, another mental mistake, another out on the bases. Victor's slump continued and the Tigers had to be content with an early 1-0 lead on Cueto and that certainly isn't the worst thing in the world. Justin Verlander looked sharp the first inning, inducing two ground outs, one fly out and no hard contact.
In the second inning the Tigers scored two more on Cueto. Nick Castellanos hit a single, Tyler Collins hit a double and a groundout by McCann and a single by Iglesias scored the two runs. In the bottom of the inning Ian Kinsler made an error on a routine play and Hosmer would come around to score on a sac fly from Alex Gordon. The Royals crowd was very excited as this was Gordon's first game back from the DL and his first game since July 8th. A double play would get Verlander out of the inning, 3-1 Royals, but nothing could dampen the love for Alex GORDAN.
The third inning was full of the sweet emptiness of routine baseball being played in the home stretch of a season. The rhythms of the game were pleasant and the stakes were low. Single, line out, fly out, force out. Ground out, walk, pop out, pop out. This spell was broken when Alex Gordan took a bad route on a fly ball, shocking everyone and Tyler Collins got thrown out at home plate, surprising no one. The Tigers would still manage to score after Gose was hit by a pitch and Kinsler drove in Iglesias making it 4-1, Tigers. Although Cueto did not look sharp -- a troubling sign for the Royals, given his recent struggles -- he would settle down to retire seven straight, his night ending at 100 pitches, six innings, nine hits, four runs and two strikeouts.
Verlander looked to be cruising, sitting at 94 mph, until Kendys Morales destroyed a slider in the fourth to bring the Royals within two. In the fifth, two bloop singles put Verlander in a tough situation with no outs. Thankfully, Ned Yost called for the bunt and Dyson popped it up. Free outs are a simple kindness in an otherwise cruel world and the Tigers almost got two on the throw to second. After an easy fly ball and an excellent catch on a liner to right field by J.D., Verlander left the inning unscathed.
Ian Kinsler hit a two-run home run, bringing the Tiger lead up to 6-2. Unfortunately the Royals immediately hit back. Gordon lead off with a double and Sal Perez hit a ball to left field that Collins slid to stop, but his lack of awareness allowed Perez to take second. After an Infante ground out drove in a run, Verlander picked up a strikeout before being chased from the game by an Escobar RBI single. The good news? Verlander was hitting 97 mph after throwing over 100 pitches and his high fastball looks like a real weapon. Wilson ended the threat, but at at 6-4, Tigers, it felt like the Royals' game to lose.
Alex Gordan picked up his second hit of the night in the eighth, putting runners at the corners with two out. Ned Yost pinch ran with Paulo Orlando and Blaine Hardy gave up a single to Perez on what looked like a playable ball hit to Romine at third, making it a 6-5 ball game. Brad countered by bringing in Neftali Feliz, a move that miraculously worked. A ground ball off the bat of Mike Moustakas ended the inning.
Bruce Rondon came on to close it out and quickly got two outs with a strikeout and a groundout. He walked Ben Zobrist, who promptly stole second in what looked like fielder's indifference. If it were fielder's indifference, that is not good. The tying run at second, Rondon got a ground out to end the game. The Tigers won and not losing as it is called now, felt really good.
Justin Verlander: He looked even better than his line of six and two-thirds innings, seven hits, one walk, two earned runs and four strikeouts sounds. His defense did him very few favors and the Royals are good at avoiding strikeouts. This was another very strong start from Justin.
Ian Kinser: Did he commit another error? Sure, but people love dingers.
Bruce Rondon: He pitched an inning out of the bullpen and did not give up a run. Roar, Bruce, roar.
Victor Martinez: Victor went 0/3 with a walk and he does not look like himself at the plate. It breaks my heart a little every time.
Mental Mistakes: Mental Mistakes might be the worst player on the Tigers this whole season.
Putting Neftali Feliz In The Highest of Leverage Situations: I am not entirely sure why the Tigers are forced to play with this handicap, but those are the rules.
STREAKS AND STATS:
- According to Jason Beck, the home run by Morales was the first Verlander had given up in 35 innings.
- The Tigers pulled within 19 games of the Royals with this victory.
- Four players, Cabrera, Kinsler, Collins and Gose all had two hits.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH: