Saturday night was a perfect microcosm of the Tigers’ season. If they hit, they don’t pitch. If they pitch, they don’t hit. Either way, they fell to the Indians 4-0 and continue to stagger into the All-Star Game break like a team that knows they’re done.
Justin Verlander got off to a much better start against the Indians this time out. He went three easy innings before getting into a bit of a two-out jam in the fourth. He promptly dispatched Bradley Zimmer with three straight 97 mph fastballs to escape. He set his team up with a chance to stake him to an early lead. Instead, the Tigers’ lineup was busy getting handled by one Mike Clevinger.
Verlander allowed a two-out single to Francisco Lindor in the bottom of the fifth, and then his difficulty putting away lefties came to a head. With Michael Brantley in a 2-2 count, Verlander threw everything but the kitchen sink up there and Brantley fought them all off before finally stroking a good curveball up the right-centerfield gap for a double that scored Lindor. Verlander quickly dusted Edwin Encarnacion to limit the damage.
Verlander continued to battle his arm slot a bit in the sixth. He allowed a leadoff walk to Jose Ramirez, which is probably not a bad idea considering how hot Ramirez has been. But Verlander rebounded, punching out Lonnie Chisenhall and Carlos Santana. The latter at bat was the source of tonight’s episode of Bad Umpire.
As Santana went down swinging, he wandered right in front of the plate, blocking Alex Avila, who was trying to cut down a stolen base attempt from Jose Ramirez. Avila clearly had to adjust mid-throw, launching his throw down to second directly over Santana’s head. No interference was called by home plate umpire Marvin Hudson, despite Brad Ausmus’ protestations. Moments later, Verlander looked to have picked Ramirez off at second, and while the replay looked like a fairly conclusive out, the initial call of safe was upheld. Verlander made it a moot point by popping up Bradley Zimmer over near the visitor’s dugout. So it goes for the sport’s officiating at the moment.
With the Tigers down 1-0, the Indians turned to Andrew Miller to handle the middle of the Tigers order in the seventh. He easily did so. Facing a likely second inning of Miller, followed by a Cody Allen save opportunity, things weren’t looking great for the good guys, despite the close score. They needed Verlander to keep the score tight. With an assist from Shane Greene, Verlander and the Tigers got through the seventh with no major difficulties.
Andrew Miller casually returned serve in the eighth, and may have stifled a yawn as he returned to the Indians dugout after making light work of the Tigers for a second inning.
For reasons, Shane Greene was pulled in favor of Bruce Rondon in the 8th. The Indians made quite obvious the enormous chasm between their two strike approach and that of the Tigers. Rondon was ahead of the first three batters he faced. He recorded one out, gave up a walk, and then consecutive triples, followed by a sacrifice fly to deep centerfield. There were maybe 42 foul balls along the way. I lost count. When the dust settled, the score was 4-0, and thoughts of a comeback, which would be a first for the Tigers in the 8th or 9th inning this season, were now a distant memory.
Cody Allen did his thing. Ballgame.
Justin Verlander: JV exorcised some demons in this one. 6 2⁄3 innings, one earned run, six strikeouts and six hits. He walked four, but two were of the intentional variety.
Ian Kinsler: Picked off in the first inning after a walk. Reverted to pop-up machine form the rest of the night.
Bruce Rondon: Struggled with his command, while the Indians fouled off two-strike pitch after two-strike pitch. Allowed three earned runs. Threw a few decent changeups. Varied his delivery in interesting ways. Did hit 101 mph on the gun for the first time in a long while...so we’ve got that going for us, which is okay I guess. He got clobbered anyway.
The whole damn offense: Big swings, big wind.
Stats and Info:
-Five of the six hits Verlander allowed on the night were doubles.
Ian Kinsler survived 3 very close calls but then picked off on 4th attempt by Mike Clevinger in 1st. Not exactly textbook base-running.— Evan Woodbery (@evanwoodbery) July 8, 2017