Tigers bail out Verlander in 14-5 win over Dodgers
JUL 08, 2014 10:50p ET
DETROIT -- Detroit Tigers starter Justin Verlander appeared headed for an early shower and a rare loss to a National League team after giving up five runs in the first inning. He cursed under his breath as he walked briskly to the dugout.
But then two things occurred that nobody could've anticipated Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
Verlander ripped off four straight 1-2-3 innings against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and allowed only a walk and an infield single the rest of the way while lasting six innings.
And the Tigers erupted for five runs in the second inning en route to a 14-5 walloping that produced their highest run and hit total (20) of the season.
"After that five-run inning," said rookie third baseman Nick Castellanos, "it was like we were ahead. That's how we felt. That's a huge win for us after losing three in a row to Tampa Bay."
Castellanos led Detroit by scoring three runs, and was joined in the three-hit club by Miguel Cabrera, J.D. Martinez, Torii Hunter and Rajai Davis. The top RBI man was Davis with three, but Cabrera, Hunter and Alex Avila each knocked in a pair.
Cabrera and Martinez both got their first triple of the season by hitting towering shots to the home run Death Valley near the scoreboard in right-center field.
"Miguel's was for sure the strangest," said Avila.
Cabrera lumbered toward third base as the ball arrived next to him and on the same path. But he beat the bouncing ball to third.
It ended up being a fun night for the Tigers. But this one appeared to be over after one frustrating inning for Verlander. The Dodgers had Hyun-Jin Ryu going, and he'd been money in the bank on the road and pretty good everywhere. Ryu entered the game with the fourth-lowest road earned run average (1.62) in the majors and a 9-4 record with eight quality starts in his last nine outings.
However, Ryu became a batting practice pitcher in Comerica, which is considered one of the most pitcher-friendly parks in baseball. He didn't last through the third inning, and gave up seven runs.
So, this wasn't some easy mark that Detroit beat up. And it wasn't a fluke that they got to Ryu. They did it with a top-to-bottom focus with a very high percentage of quality at-bats.
Hunter -- the hottest Tiger -- got it going in the second inning with a double into the corner. Second base umpire Will Little ruled him out after testing right fielder Yasiel Puig's "cannon" arm, but Hunter popped up from his slide making the safe sign. Detroit manager Brad Ausmus asked for a video review, and the call was changed. Hunter had a double.
Would that inning and the comeback win -- also the largest of the season -- have happened without that reversal?
"We were talking about that," Ausmus said. "That's how replays have changed the game...One little thing changes, and it can change the whole game."
Ryu got the next three hitters on the hook, but all three singled to build a rally. Castellanos and Avila both were down, 0-2, in the count, while Eugenio Suarez was down, 1-2. But each hung in tough, got a pitch he could handle, and produced hits.
"Those guys today were the MVPs of the game," said Hunter, who is batting .542 over his last six games. "The catfish, the bottom feeders in the batting order, got it done."
Avila added, "We did a great job of grinding out at-bats to get it to the next guy. You are not going to hit a five-run homer."
“After that five-run inning, it was like we were ahead. That's how we felt.”
Avila knocked in the first run, and No. 9 hitter Davis followed Suarez with another RBI-single. Avila scored on a wild pitch. Then Ian Kinsler and Cabrera singled in the last two runs of the inning to tie the score.
Avila said, "Justin could say, 'My team got me back to 0-0, and he did a good job from there on out."
Hunter added, "Ver got down early, and we got him some runs and he settled down."
Lead-off hitter Austin Jackson was the only starter to go hitless, but he still contributed. Jackson walked, got hit by a pitch and notched his eighth sacrifice fly of the season. That broke a four-way tie for the American League lead that he'd shared with Mike Trout, Billy Butler and Matt Joyce.
And so, in the end, Verlander ran his record against NL teams to 23-2 while winning his 12th straight decision against the senior circuit.
Instead of explaining how a $20 million pitcher could drop to 7-8, he was talking about a comeback win that was a true team effort. And Verlander ended up being a big part of that.
This could prove to be a big win, the kind that teams point to when all is said and done.