It was bound to happen sooner or later and last night it finally did; the Detroit Tigers lost a game that Justin Verlander started. Verlander, who had won nine straight decisions dating back to April, couldn’t do much more than he did in holding the Angels to one run over 7.2 innings late last night, but when Dan Haren mowed down the Tigers over nine shutout innings, Verlander’s fate was sealed.
Frequently over the past month or so, Verlander had been called upon to halt a Tigers losing streak. Each time he was asked to do so, he delivered. Until last night. Although it was really no fault of his own. Frankly, even if Verlander had held the Angels scoreless, I’m not sure they ever would have scored against Haren last night.
The Tigers’ loss last night wound up as a wasted chance to gain a game on both the Indians and the White Sox in the standings, but the worse result was that it has now paved the way for a prolonged losing skid. Detroit turns to Brad Penny in Anaheim this afternoon to try to avoid a sweep at the hands of the Angels, but don’t hold your breath on that one. Detroit has won only 18 times in their last 71 games at the Big A, and Penny, while improved, hasn’t shown any signs of returning to his once-dominant form of a half-decade ago.
But even if Penny and the Tigers drop the finale today, you might say, they get to go play at Kansas City in the next series. How many times have the Tigers rolled in Kauffman Stadium expecting to trounce the hapless Royals only to see the tables turned on them? Far too often for any Tiger fans taste, that’s for sure.
In the past two games, it really hasn’t been the pitching that has let them down. Charlie Furbush kept them in the game on Monday, but the team mustered only one run in support. Last night they gave Verlander all of two hits. While the pitching staff (outside of Verlander) has been up and down all year, the bats have been a constant. But the Tigers have the look right now of a team entering into a funk. When the pitching has been there, the bats have gone cold and when the bats are producing, the pitching staff has been poor. Over the past 19 games, the Tigers are just 7-12.
The schedule, aided by a couple of make-up dates, has provided no respite in terms of the sheer number of games they’ve played, nor in terms of the opponents they’ve faced. Other clubs have similar problems throughout the year, however.
The all-star break looms just five days away. If the Tigers can somehow fight through their collective struggles and get to those magical off-days by winning three of the next five, they may be okay. But the next five games also have disaster written all over them. The way the club is going as of late, I wouldn’t be at all shocked to look at the standings on Monday to find the club in third place instead of first, where they probably should be.