DETROIT -- What was meant to be a win indebted to Justin Verlander's near-flawless performance, became a wasteland created by a bullpen that couldn't live up to the billing. The Detroit Tigers lost 8-3 to the Texas Rangers on a combination of poor relief pitching, silent offense, and untapped scoring chances.
Two on and no outs with runners on the corners in the third inning. After two quick 1-2-3 innings to start the game, Verlander had given up back-to-back singles and faced a potential disaster. Following his seven-run outing on May 3, he vowed to be better. Two innings in his fastball command was sharp and his offspeed pitches appeared deadly. But given his recent issues and the lack of Detroit offense, Verlander couldn't afford to make another mistake or give up a run.
Swinging strikeout on a 90 mph slider. A 95 mph four-seam fastball followed for a second out. Two pitches later and it was over on a weak flyout to left. Crisis averted. Until the seventh when Verlander would be tested again at the end of his outing. The roles reversed and the final out was proving elusive.
After a flyout of Ian Desmond and looking strikeout to Mitch Moreland, Elvis Andrus smacked a single to left and stole second base. Former Tiger Bobby Wilson walked and Verlander was at 106 pitches. Ball one, with the bullpen warming. Strike, foul ball, followed by another. The command was fading on his fastball, but manager Brad Ausmus waited a little longer as James McCann paid a visit to the mound.
This was Verlander's inning to lose. A pause, then the pitch. Swinging strikeout No. 9 on a 96 mph fastball. With a pump of the fist into his glove and a standing ovation, Verlander departed the field having delivered a Vintage performance. With only two runs for support, the Verlander of Olde had returned. And then the bullpen imploded, with former Tiger Bobby Wilson's grand slam as the final nail in the coffin of a series sweep.
Justin Verlander: Vintage. Seven innings of three-hit, no-run ball. Nine strikeouts. Dominant.
Miguel Cabrera: Drove in the Tigers' first run on a ground-rule double to right in the third inning. He also singled in the eighth.
Third inning: Ian Kinsler got things going with a two-out single and the next four batters worked three walks and a ground-rule RBI double. Victor Martinez's walk loaded the bases and Justin Upton worked back from an 0-2 count to walk a run home.
Offense: Even if the score had remained 2-0, the offense did not provide enough run support for a comfortable lead. They struck out eight times and Anthony Gose accounted for three of those. They also wasted two bases-loaded opportunities.
Bullpen: FIRED. Into the sun. Seven runs allowed on six hits in the eighth. A grand slam and a solo shot to follow. Another run in the ninth.
STREAKS AND STATS:
- Justin Verlander's strikeout of Rougned Odor in the third inning was the 1,980th strikeout of his career, tying with Jack Morris for second in club history. Mickey Lolich leads the team, with 2,679 strikeouts. He later passed that total, taking over sole occupancy of second place with a strikeout of Prince Fielder in the fourth inning.
- The Tigers' losing streak is now at six games.
- The last time the Tigers bullpen gave up eight runs was Sept. 3, 2015 on a 15-7 drubbing by the Royals.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH: