Justin Verlander delivered a heckuva effort in Game 2 of the ALDS on Saturday night, going seven scoreless innings with 11 strikeouts, one walk, and four hits, but Oakland Athletics starting pitcher Sonny Gray matched him pitch for pitch and kept the Tigers off the board as well.
Gray, a 23 year old rookie, threw 111 pitches over eight scoreless innings while fanning nine Tigers batters. Detroit had only four hits on the night, and only one, a Miguel Cabrera line drive to the outfield, was particularly well hit. Don Kelly had a single that scooted under / off of a couple of infield gloves, and both he and Jose Iglesias beat out infield singles as well. That and a walk each from Omar Infante and Alex Avila was the entire offensive output for the night.
The only real threat came in the fifth inning when an Infante walk, a Kelly groundout, and the Iglesias infield hit put runners on the corners with only one out. After being spotted a 3-0 count, Austin Jackson (o-4, 4 K) struck out on a pitch out of the zone with Iglesias on the move on a hit-and-run attempt, and the inning ended with a strike-‘em-out, throw-‘em-out double play.
The Tigers have neither (1) scored nor (2) recorded an extra base hit since the first inning of Game 1, so this makes 17-straight innings of feeble offense. I’m not that concerned because the Tigers were one of the better offensive teams in baseball all season and they’re heading home where they hit better, but yeah, you can’t win a game in which you don’t score, and this is getting old.
Al Alburquerque, who helped the Tigers get out of the eighth by striking out both batters he faced, remained in the game to start the ninth inning and promptly loaded the bases without recording an out (the last runner on an intentional walk). Rick Porcello was brought on in an attempt to induce a ground ball or two, but Stephen Vogt was able to line a sinker just past the outstretched glove of Iglesias to plate the winning run.
The good news is that it’s not like the Athletics are hitting either (both teams scored only three runs in the first two games), and the Tigers still have the better pitchers scheduled for Games 3 and 4. It would have been great to take both road games to start the series given the way both Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander pitched, but a split isn’t the worst thing in the world either.
Gotta start hitting though, or no amount of pitching is going to help.