Tonight, the Detroit Tigers were the biggest underdog in Major League Baseball since 2005, per ESPN. In fact, per Anthony Fenech, the Astros closed as -600 favorites against Detroit. They haven’t lost in Houston in nearly one month (their last loss at Minute Maid Park coming on July 23), they had Justin Verlander on the mound, and the Tigers are, well the Tigers.
Tigers win, 2-1.
Yeah. That’s baseball, baby.
A lot of weird stuff happened tonight, so bear with me just rattling off a bunch of random facts for a moment.
FIRST: The Tigers managed two hits tonight. The first was a Ronny Rodriguez opposite-field solo shot that came seemingly out of nowhere in the fifth inning following four perfect. The second came off the bat of John Hicks, who has the lowest fWAR on the Tigers (and fifth-worst in all of baseball) being worth -1.2 wins above replacement this year. Verlander has now allowed the second-most home runs in baseball this season with 33 allowed, one short of Diamondbacks pitcher Mike Leake (though a mind-blowing 28 out of 33 of those home runs have been solo shots).
The Astros, meanwhile, managed only six hits off of the ferocious foursome of Daniel Norris, Tyler Alexander, Buck Farmer, and Joe Jimenez. Their sole run came via a Robinson Chirinos solo shot in the seventh inning off of Tyler Alexander. Tough luck for the biggest favorites of this decade, huh? (It’s worth noting, too, that the Astros were previously the biggest favorite of the decade in a game against the Orioles earlier this season and lost.)
SECOND: One of the craziest parts of today that nearly got lost in the chaos? Robinson Chirinos came up as the final batter of the game with a chance for the cycle. He hit a double and tried to leg out a triple and was gunned out by Hurlin’ Harold Castro and Dawel “Won the Trade” Lugo. Nice try, Houston. Nice try.
THIRD: Despite the loss, Verlander managed to lower his WHIP today, facing two batters over the minimum while throwing only 99 pitches over the course of a complete game. As /u/Bat2121 on Reddit pointed out today, Justin Verlander has, to date, posted the third-lowest WHIP in modern baseball history. Only 2000 Pedro Martinez and 1995 Greg Maddux had lower, and they were both in their late 20s. Verlander, meanwhile, is 36 years old. It will be interesting to see if Verlander can stay in that top-three for the final month of the season. I’ll be cheering for him.
FOURTH: This was a bizarre game. Per Dan Dickerson on the radio broadcast tonight, this is the second time a pitcher has ever faced 29 batters and allowed 2 ER due to giving up two solo shots. The only other guy to ever have such a strange start was Mike Mussina in 1998.
Anyways, there was a LOT of chaos to cover there.
Let’s break down our team a little more.
Today’s final result was possible today all because we received good Daniel Norris. After allowing a leadoff single to George Springer, Norris managed to settle in for three innings of clean work, only allowing one more hit and issuing zero walks while notching a pair of strikeouts. From there, the Tigers went Tyler Alexander as the man to piggyback off of Daniel Norris’s start today instead of Drew VerHagen, as VerHagen will start on Friday.
Things went extremely well for the first few innings for Alexander, as he made it through three innings while allowing just two hits and one walk, but then Robinson Chirinos opened the bottom half of the seventh by hitting a two-seam fastball from Alexander off the train in left field. Ouch. (In the game preview today, I noted that the key matchup of the game would be Drew VerHagen versus the Astros lineup their second time through the order. If you switch Tyler Alexander’s name in there, it was accurate.) From there, Alexander settled in for the rest of the inning, partly thanks to Travis Demeritte contributing with a great snow-cone catch in right field. Alexander finished the day with a very clean 4 IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 3 K line on the day.
The most impressive play of the day came in the eighth inning, when the Tigers managed a 6-3-5 double play. Jose Altuve ran on the pitch from Buck Farmer and safely made it to second base as Jordy Mercer threw over to Ronny Rodriguez at first. Altuve got greedy from there, however, and tried for third base before being gunned out by El Felino himself. Sure, it helped that John Hicks opened the ninth inning with a solo home run, but that double play sparked life in the Tigers dugout.
The Tigers pulled off the biggest upset in baseball this decade. Take it in, everybody. I know that I will remember this as my highlight of the 2019 season, that’s for sure.