Detroit 6, Chicago 3 (box)
One of the things I enjoy about the games when the Tigers are on a national broadcast is getting to hear a different set of announcers. Don’t get me wrong, I love Rod and Mario, but it’s fun to get a different perspective on occasion. Justin Verlander‘s day yesterday was lifted straight from his usual script, but to Josh Lewin and Mark Grace, this outing was pure madness.
Oh sure, everything began innocently enough. The Tigers built themselves a one out threat in the first with runners at second and third for Miguel Cabrera. He hasn’t seen a pitch too frequently in this situation of late, but with the White Sox playing for as much as the Tigers are right now, Lucas Harrell and his really bad teeth decided to pitch to the Tigers slugger. It worked. Cabrera popped up, leaving the runners right where they were. The next batter was Brennan Boesch, so everyone in the park and watching at home assumed the Tigers would be squandering this scoring chance. Had the home plate umpire called a very close 3-2 pitch differently, they would have. But the pitch was called a ball (I thought it was a strike, but I guess it might have been low) and Boesch took his base.
With the sacks now drunk, Ryan Raburn stepped in and did what he does; driving in two when his groundball scooted under the glove of a diving Alexei Ramirez. The Tigers would tack on another run in the fourth and lead 3-0 headed to the middle innings.
Meanwhile, Verlander was unbelievably good. Whatever he found with his curveball a few starts ago, he hasn’t lost it yet. Right from the jump, Verlander was dominating this White Sox lineup. He retired the first seven in a row before allowing a couple of one-out hits in the third. As if to re-assert his stranglehold on their bats, Verlander that struck out the side in the fourth, fanning Alex Rios, Paul Kornerko, and Manny Ramirez in order, the last two looking.
Verlander’s good outing was nothing of surprise for a Tigers fan; we are all spoiled by how often he makes being extremely good look routine. Unfortunately, we also have become accustomed to his blow-up inning, and he had one of those in the fifth.
After getting the first man out, Verlander served up hard-hit balls to each of the next three batters, all of them at the bottom of the order, of course. When Juan Pierre can to the plate, Chicago had cut the lead to 3-1 and had runners at the corners. Pierre’s comebacker should have ended the inning right there, but Verlander didn’t glove it and the Tigers were only able to get the force at second, allowing the second ChiSox run. Now with two outs, Verlander walked Alexei to bring up Rios and this time, Rios came through, knocking in the tying run on a ball down the left field line.
But just as quickly as it fell apart for Verlander, he put it all back together. For the remainder of the game, the White Sox didn’t manage even one more baserunner. Verlander retired the final 13 batters in a row. All he would need for the win would be a little more help from his friends with the bats. In the eighth, help arrived in maybe the least likely form.
With two outs and no one on, the inning wasn’t looking promising, but Alex Avila got things going with a single and then Austin Jackson followed with one of his own. With the lefty-hitting Will Rhymes due to bat, Ozzie Guillen lifted Sergio Santos in favor of fellow rookie Chris Sale. Not to be outdone by Guillen, JIm Leyland took down Rhymes and sent up Scott Sizemore in his stead. How’d that work out? Well, Sizemore turned on a 97 mph fastball and sent it 417 feet away into the left field stands. Not bad, kid.
It’s tough to find any real meaning in these games, both teams are out of the race, so you wonder how much effort is really there, especially by Chicago, given their newly-acquired “pretender” status. That said, It’s a blast to beat Chicago and if they can do it again on Sunday, the Tigers will have won the season series for the first time in six years. The win was Verlander’s 17th of the year and his third complete game. He now has 82 career wins, third most by a Tiger pitcher in the first five years of a career. He’ll not catch Denny McLain, who had 90 wins, but Mickey Lolich is next on the list, just one ahead of JV. Not bad company at all.