Verlander struggles, falls to Yanks

DETROIT — Justin Verlander wasn’t about to blame
Magglio Ordonez for his loss to the New York Yankees on Sunday.

After all, it was Ordonez’s 2006 homer that took Verlander to the World Series
and his 2007 catch that ended Verlander’s first no-hitter.

The Tigers ace simply pointed out that the lengthy ceremony honoring Ordonez
was one of the things that didn’t help his effort. The game started several
minutes later than a normal afternoon game, and Derek Jeter hit Verlander’s
first pitch for a home run.

“I don’t think I’ve ever had to wait that long to take the mound at home
before,” Verlander said after the 5-1 loss. “It is what it is, but I
didn’t know when to go on to the field. I’d start out there, and then they were
announcing the lineups, or they were doing the ceremony for the first pitch,
and I’d end up back in the dugout.”

Verlander ended up yielding five runs — three earned — in 6 1/3 innings and suffered
his third consecutive loss. It is the first time that he’s lost three starts in
a row since 2008, but neither he nor manager Jim Leyland are worried.
Verlander’s ERA has only been 4.43 during the losing streak — better than Rick
Porcello, Max Scherzer and Jose Valverde have managed for the entire season.

“He looked out of sync today, and I think the delay to the start and
having a new catcher had something to do with that,” Leyland said.
“He’s absolutely fine, though. He wasn’t out of sync in the last two
starts, and there were reasons today. Pitchers are very regimented at home, and
that six-to-eight-minute delay probably didn’t help.”

Verlander agreed that he and catcher Omir Santos struggled at times — it was
the first time they had worked together in a game — but thought the biggest
issue of the day was Hunter Wendelstedt’s strike zone.

“I was uncomfortable right from the start, because pitches that I have
been practicing every day suddenly weren’t strikes,” Verlander said.
“That meant I had to come in more over the plate than I normally do, and
that’s a tough thing to do against the Yankees.”

Verlander walked a season-high four batters and gave up four extra-base hits,
including a massive home run by Alex Rodriguez. The ball hit the brick wall in
left-center between Hank Greenberg and Charlie Gehringer’s retired numbers, and
was measured at 447 feet — longer than either of Miguel Cabrera’s rockets on
Saturday night.

“There were a lot of pitches that I felt could have gone either way, and
that would have seriously changed some important at-bats,” Verlander said.
“To get a strike, I had to throw a hittable pitch, and it was like that
all day.”

Verlander said that he never gives himself the benefit of the doubt and says it
was “just one of those days,” but he and Leyland seemed to blame most
of his performances on outside factors.

On another subject, Verlander said something that most fans will agree with.
When asked to assess the first third of the season, he summed it up quickly.

“Not good at all.”

HONORING MAGGLIO

Although the on-field ceremony honoring Ordonez’s retirement may have run a bit
too long for Leyland and Verlander’s tastes, the sold-out crowd of 42,419
appeared to have a great time.

After Ordonez’s family was introduced, along with Mike and Marian Ilitch, Dave
Dombrowski and Leyland, the gate in right field opened and Ordonez walked in
from his old position. He received a standing ovation from the fans, the Tigers
and many of the veteran Yankees. Curtis Granderson and Robinson Cano led the
Yankees who applauded Ordonez, and they were joined by manager Joe Girardi,
Jeter, Andy Pettitte, Mark Teixeira and several others.

Ordonez was presented with a painting of his walk-off homer in Game 4 of the
2006 ALCS, moments after the homer had been shown on the videoboard in left
field. He made a short acceptance speech, but had talked quite a bit more with
the media two hours earlier.

“I’m here to announce my official retirement from baseball, and I want to
thank the organization, with special thanks to Mr. Ilitch and Dave, the guys
who brought me here, and Mr. Leyland, who has supported me all these
years,” Ordonez said. “I don’t know what else to say. It’s been a
wonderful seven years in this city, having support from the greatest fans in
the world.”

Leyland choked up while talking about one of his favorite players.

“I think the best thing I can say to Magglio is, over the years, not all of
the players become your friends, but you’ve become a friend,” the skipper said.
“I thank you for all the wonderful things you did for me, all the respect
you showed me and all the respect you showed your teammates. You’ll be
missed.”