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Tigers 10, Pirates 0: Justin Verlander was borderline unhittable

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Ian Kinsler erupted at the plate to back the Tigers’ ace with a rare dose of run support.

MLB: Pittsburgh Pirates at Detroit Tigers Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Second half Justin Verlander is a real thing. The Tigers’ ace dominated the Pirates on Wednesday night and the offense went off for a fun-filled 10-0 victory.

Verlander received something he’s rather unfamiliar with in this one —early run support—and he saw that it was good. Ian Kinsler and Miguel Cabrera singled in the first inning and Kinsler scampered home on a Nick Castellanos single to get the Tigers on the board first. In the second, John Hicks led off the inning with a double, got to third on a throwing error, and then came home on a Jose Iglesias sacrifice fly. Ian Kinsler smoked a line drive out to left center for a solo home run, his 11th of the year, and just like that the Tigers were up 3-0.

Through five innings, Verlander didn’t appear to need even that much help. Not only were the Pirates no-hit, there wasn’t even a solidly struck ball in the bunch until Jordy Mercer lined out to Kinsler to end the fourth. Verlander lost his release point a few times in that inning, surrendering a pair of walks. Otherwise it was vintage stuff from the big right-hander. He came right back in the fifth with another 1-2-3 inning marked by weak contact to right field. Jim Adduci made a fine play on the second out of the inning, running full out to snare a blighter down the right field line to retire Francisco Cervelli.

Tigers’ fans are old hands at Verlander no-hitter alerts, but after two quick outs in the sixth, ears began perking up all over social media. Right about then, Josh Bell slapped a grounder to third. Nick Castellanos got glove on it with a diving play, but the ball kicked off into the outfield grass. Bell may have been safe at first even if Castellanos had come up with it, but he compounded the play by failing to hustle after the ball as Bell raced around to second base for a “double”. It’s just not working out at third base, Nick. There was some frustration on Verlander’s face, and possibly some cursing at the official scorer, but he retired Josh Harrison on a liner to Cabrera to end the frame.

The strikeout touch had eluded Verlander in this one, despite averaging over 10 per nine innings in the second half. With the loss of the no-no, angry Verlander made his presence felt. He found the handle on his breaking stuff, racking up a pair of strikeouts in a 1-2-3 seventh inning, punctuated with a nasty curveball that John Jaso flailed at helplessly.

Meanwhile Ivan Nova was lucky to only be down three to this point. He got the first out of the seventh, then walked Kinsler and Adduci back-to-back. Nova worked Miguel Cabrera into a 1-2 count, and then hit him on the forearm with a fastball. With the bases full, Nick Castellanos got some redemption, ripping a line shot up the right centerfield gap for a triple that cleaned the bases.

Verlander came out for the eighth and promptly struck out the first two batters he faced. He snared a weak comebacker to retire Adam Frazier for another clean inning, and his night was through. The offense however, was not done just yet.

Daniel Hudson walked the first two batters he faced, and then Jose Iglesias reached on a Jordy Mercer error to load the bases. For the second straight inning, the bases were quickly swept. Ian Kinsler hammered a double to drive all three runs in, and the Tigers led 9-0. McCann then singled, as did Nick Castellanos, plating Kinsler to make it an even 10 runs on the night.

Shane Greene hadn’t pitched in quite a while, courtesy of a four-game losing streak, so he came on in the ninth to get some work. He gave up a pair of hits after starting out with a strikeout. He then induced a double play ball, neatly turned by Dixon Machado and Jose Iglesias, to preserve the shutout.

Roars

Justin Verlander: The Tigers’ ace looks every bit the part in the second half. Eight innings of one-hit shutout ball with six strikeouts. Three walks says he’s still not 100 percent dialed in with his adjustments, but it was mastery on display regardless.

Ian Kinsler: A single, a walk, a three RBI double and a solo home run as the Tigers’ leadoff hitter had himself a monster day at the plate.

Hisses

I’ll give a partial hiss to Castellanos for not making the play to preserve the no-hitter, but he did redeem himself with a five RBI day at the plate out of the clean-up spot. He now leads the American League with eight triples, three more than Cleveland’s Jose Ramirez. The newfound speed is paying off. We still like you Nick, just not at 3B.

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