DETROIT -- Justin Verlander never wants to come out of the game. Anyone who has followed the Detroit Tigers knows that. Regardless of the decision to pull him with two outs in the ninth with a slim 3-1 lead. So, when he got pulled, he's less than pleased. That's not a knock on anyone, it's just who he is. In the end the team was able to pull away with a 5-4 walkoff win in extras thanks to a no-quit offense.
"It was a good win," Verlander remarked. "Obviously the ninth inning didn't go the way we wanted, but we battled back against a really, really tough bullpen and came back and were able to win it. I'm really happy for Dixon (Machado) and the team. It was a good win."
Verlander was already at 100 pitches to start the ninth. When he allowed the two-out single, he'd reached 114 pitches. He had also been dominant against the Kansas City Royals all night and Verlander said after the game that he felt his offspeed pitches were particularly strong and have been increasingly so of late.
That being said, he has a history with Salvador Perez and it's not a favorable one for Verlander. For his career, Perez had hit .488/.465/.805 with seven doubles and two homers against Verlander in 43 plate appearances. That's not exactly a small sample size. Both Verlander and manager Brad Ausmus acknowledged as much.
Yet, it was the right decision. The end result simply backfired. The fans felt otherwise and Verlander disagreed with the response.
"You know, there were a lot of positives tonight," Verlander said. "I'm a big believer in positive energy, positive vibes. And I don't think that was a good situation to boo. We've got a lot of good things going, and here comes our reliever in to a bunch of boos. Obviously, granted, it's not for him, but I just didn't think that was the right situation. I wished they were a little more positive in that situation. Granted, I've been booed, everybody's been booed. It happens. But I'm a firm believer in positive energy.
"Obviously the fans wanted me to stay in. I want to stay in. But that's the manager's call. Hindsight being 20-20, it didn't work out the way I'm sure Brad (Ausmus) would've liked. It was probably the worst-case scenario. But I think you look at the big overall picture. Salvador's (Perez) somebody that's had some success against me."
The game was essentially a microcosm of the Tigers' 2015 season with the exception of the walkoff. For once, Detroit wasn't on the receiving end of a comeback despite the fight the Royals displayed. The Royals bullpen isn't an immovable force. At least, it wasn't on Friday night and has shown signs of wavering in recent memory.
A wild game that started out crazy enough, when a bank of lights in right field wouldn't turn on and delayed the start of the game by 23 minutes. Yet another game in which there wasn't enough run support to give Verlander a win -- even if individual pitcher wins are overrated. A game where Verlander came within one strike of his second complete game of this season. And a looming thunderstorm on the horizon.
Before the ninth, Ausmus asked Verlander how he felt. The response: Verlander felt good. In the ninth, had Ausmus gone out to the mound without calling to the bullpen, Verlander would've surely advocated for that one more batter. The result might have very well been the same. Either way the odds didn't look too great. The move assured that Verlander couldn't fight for that one more out.
"No point in arguing then -- or lobbying, I don't want to say arguing," he said. "That's not the right word. No point in lobbying. If he had come out and asked me, then yeah, that gives me the opportunity to lobby for myself to stay in the game. But he had already made the decision."
At least the game ended favorably for the Tigers. The boos aren't exactly a popular topic with the team right now. Nevertheless, the team has put together a little three-game winning streak and have taken six of their last 10 games. The Tigers have won all three games that have gone into extras. And that's not so bad.