Tigers Turn to Justin Verlander to Right the Ship Versus Tribe
By John Parent
There are many criteria used to define an ace; not just the best pitcher on a given staff, but a true ace. There are a lot of staff aces, but very few pitchers that meet all the criteria of being a true ace. First an foremost, the pitcher has to have the ability to dominate an opposing lineup. Secondly, and perhaps equally important, the pitcher must demonstrate that ability with great consistency. The pitcher must also be able to pitch deep into game, must be able to be counted upon to end losing streaks, and must be able to out-duel another good starter.
The Detroit Tigers have one of those true aces, and they’ll be leaning heavily on him tonight.
After dropping the first two games to the Cleveland Indians over the past two nights, the Tigers are handing the ball to Justin Verlander in an attempt to end the losing streak, which has now reached three.
More than that, perhaps, the Tigers will need an extended start from their right hander. A 14-inning marathon on Tuesday saw the Tigers empty their bullpen and caused the Tigers’ relievers to toss the final 12 innings thanks to a near two hour rain delay before the top of the third. This problem was compounded last night when Rick Porcello got knocked around early and often and didn’t survive the fourth.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland made a decision last night to sacrifice only two relievers (David Pauley and Daniel Schlereth) to mop up after Porcello. Obviously those two, both of whom had worked on Tuesday as well, will not be available tonight, and probably not for at least a few days.
Leyland is surely hoping that with Verlander on the mound this evening, he can get all of his relievers an extra day off. Verlander is having a season for the ages and has had great recent success against the Tribe, tossing a two-hit shutout in his last start against them. If things go according to plan, Verlander would work at least eight innings tonight, and possibly hand the ball off to Jose Valverde, the only fresh hurler in the bullpen. Remember, Brad Penny was skipped so that Verlander could make this start. Win or lose, I feel much better about the next series (in Baltimore) with JV going tonight. At least the ‘pen should be fresh for that series.
That said, I certainly don’t expect a loss. In this spot, with Cleveland having trimmed the deficit to a skinny two games, there is no one I’d rather see on the hill than Verlander. Games like this one are what define an ace; all he has to do is show up and continue his dominance.
The bullpen isn’t the only depleted unit for the Tigers today, either. Left fielder Brennan Boesch had to leave the game last night when he tweaked his thumb. He has sent for x-rays that revealed no fracture. The injury isn’t believed to be serious at this point, but it’s unlikely that he’ll play tonight. Expect to see Andy Dirks take Boesch’s place in left field with Austin Jackson returning to the lineup in center.
Designated hitter (and backup catcher) Victor Martinez admitted to feeling a twinge in his knee while beating out an infield hit last night, so it’s doubtful the Tigers will want to use him behind the plate. Starting catcher Alex Avila caught all 14 innings on Tuesday and followed that up with a full nine last night. If VMart can’t take a start behind the dish soon, the Tigers may have to make a roster move to bring up some help.
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