Detroit 8, Cleveland 1 (box)
Justin Verlander didn’t give the team what he needed his last time out. With his bullpen hurting, and his team fighting valiantly to stay relevant, Verlander failed to go deep into the game, and he failed to keep his team in the lead.
Justin had watched as Armando Galarraga carved up the Indians for seven innings on Friday, and he watched as Max Scherzer matched the effort on Saturday. Not to be outdone, Justin took the mound on Sunday and twirled a gem of his own.
After striking out Trevor Crowe to begin the game, and inducing a fly ball out from Asdrubal Cabrera, Justin served up a home run ball to Shin-Soo Choo. It would be the only run Cleveland would score.
The Tigers’ ace has struggled in the past when he has relied too heavily on his fastball. Instead of trying to overpower every hitter with his heater, Justin mixed his pitches well and kept the Cleveland hitters off balance for the entire afternoon. By doing so, he kept his pitch count in check while maintaining high strikeout numbers. A pitcher of Verlander’s caliber doesn’t need to pitch to contact to keep his pitch count in the desirable range, he simply needs to trust his entire arsenal. It truly is a case of mastering the “art of pitching,” if I may borrow a beloved phrase from radio commentator Jim Price.
Justin scattered seven hits over eight innings, on 115 pitches, while striking out eight and surrendering just a single run. His effort capped off a fantastic weekend for the starting pitchers. Combining the numbers, the Tigers’ weekend starters went 22 innings with 24 strikeouts, and only gave up three runs, of which two were earned (a 0.82 ERA).
The entire offense deserves some kudos for their effort as well. Everyone, save Donnie Kelly, had a hit on Sunday. Will Rhymes deserves a special hat-tip for his four hit performance. I dogged Will a little bit while speaking to Zac before the game, but the little fella proved me wrong. After today’s offensive outburst, his offensive numbers actually look pretty good.
I was really happy with how the team played this weekend. I know it was just against the Indians, blah blah blah, they’re terrible, blah blah blah. I don’t care. The Tigers need wins, and they got three in very convincing fashion. They still have several series remaining with some poor teams (three series with the Royals, two with the Orioles, and another with the Indians), so they’ll get further chances to score some fun wins.
The team sits two games below the .500 mark, and I think they have a good shot to finish above that mark. It’s not how we thought they would go about it, but it seemed like most people pegged the Tigers to finish in the 84 win range. I still think they’re in a position to achieve that total. It will take a 23-15 pace to get there, but if they continue to beat up on the bad teams it’s certainly possible.