The Tigers bounced back tonight after a rough start to their west coast road trip in Oakland. They had a decent start from Justin Verlander, a nice offensive showing from several guys, great defense all around and a stellar three full innings from our newly adjusted back-end of the bullpen.
The fun started early in the game after a lead-off walk by Andrew Romine to start the evening, Nicholas Castellanos singled him in to score the first run. The very next inning James McCann followed it up by hitting his seventh home home run so far this season, which is tops among all American League catchers and tied with Austin Hedges for best among all catchers.
After a walk by Romine and a single by Jose Iglesias in the fifth, Miguel Cabrera doubled deep to center field and Romine scored to tie the game. Robbie Ray then loaded the bases by walking Castellanos and a two run single by Mikie Mahtook gave the Tigers the lead. That would spell the end of the night for former Tiger Robbie Ray. He pitched five innings allowing five hits, five walks and five runs. An all-around rough start even though he struck out eight Tigers’ batters, three of those strikeouts came from Justin Verlander.
Justin Upton made sure the Tigers weren’t finished however, when he hit a 454ft moonshot to deep center field in the eighth inning to stretch the lead to three runs. This continued in the ninth with lead-off singles by Machado and pinch-hitting Victor Martinez. The bases then filled to capacity when Cabrera was intentionally walked and Castellanos then walked and a run scored to make it 7-3.
Justin Verlander was solid tonight, striking out two guys in each of the first two frames even while battling a high pitch count for his entire start. It all started when he threw 30 pitches in the first. This caused him to struggle a bit in the third inning, plagued by some poor command. He gave up four hits and three runs which gave Arizona the lead before he finally escaped the inning.
From there, Verlander began settling in. Jose Iglesias made a heck of a play in the fourth inning to keep it clean for Verlander. This allowed him to go on and retire eight straight batters before surrendering a double in the sixth. Verlander reached back for 98mph on back to back pitches to strike out Jeff Mathis and end the sixth inning. The seventh inning would signal the end of the night for Verlander, after he gave up a walk and a base hit.
Justin Verlander’s final line was six innings pitched, seven hits, three runs, three walks and seven strikeouts. He threw 108 pitches, 67 of which were strikes. Verlander’s fastball averaged 95.7mph and he touched 98 a couple of times as well.
Blaine Hardy came in from the pen and did his job, retiring the only batter he faced. Shane Greene then came in with two men on and only one out in the seventh. He faced their best hitter first, in Paul Goldschmidt who flew out to deep centerfield on what looked like trouble. The Tigers then intentionally walked Jake Lamb and then Greene struck out Yasmany Tomas on a nasty slider to escape unscathed .
Alex Wilson entered the game next in the eighth and gave up a hit but resulted in no damage. This allowed Justin Wilson to have a four run lead going into the ninth, not that he needed it. He slammed the door shut just as expected and the Tigers take game one of the two game series.
Bullpen: the newly minted back-end of our bullpen did exactly what a bullpen should do, they shut down the opposition with not much effort. Hardy, Greene, and the Wilsons all looked terrific.
Offense: the Tigers offense received help from all areas tonight with Romine and Verlander the only batters without a hit, although Romine walked twice. While five different Tigers batted in a run, two of which were home runs.
Verlander’s velocity: While JV struggled a bit with his pitch count and walks, his velocity didn’t. His fastball sat at 95 pretty much the entire night and he touched 98 twice. Vintage Verlander for sure.
STREAKS AND INFO:
Shane Greene is one of five major league relievers to pitch at least 12 innings so far this season and not allow an extra base hit. That continued tonight when he faced two of the toughest hitters in the Diamondbacks lineup and didn’t allow a base runner, while also stranding two runners.