Justin Verlander had several reasons to finish the first game of Friday’s doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox.
Pride was the biggest one.
The Tigers ace got out of a bases-loaded, no-out jam in the ninth inning to finish off Detroit’s 5-1 win and the sixth complete game of his career.
“That felt good, especially because Skip (manager Jim Leyland) had the confidence to let me finish it,” he said. “After they loaded the bases, I was looking into the dugout and I really didn’t want to see him coming for me.”
Verlander had allowed three hits through eight innings, but the first three batters of the ninth all lined clean singles. Gordon Beckham grounded into a 1-2-3 double play, and Verlander retired DeWayne Wise to end the game.
“He’s a horse, and we saw that again today,” Leyland said. “He’s just a very special talent.”
Verlander was twice clocked at 100 mph during Wise’s at-bat, the last coming on his 125th pitch.
“He’s got a gift,” Tigers catcher Gerald Laird said. “When they loaded the bases, he just reared back and started hitting 100 on the gun. He’s got unbelievable stuff.”
Verlander (11-5) struggled with his control early, walking four batters in the first five innings. But he didn’t allow a hit after the fourth until the ninth.
“I was worried, because he got out of sync, but he got it back together,” Leyland said. “That’s the difference between this year and last year.”
The White Sox were coming off Mark Buehrle‘s perfect game on Thursday, but manager Ozzie Guillen said that didn’t affect Friday’s outcome.
“There was no letdown from yesterday,” he said. “Verlander was just dominating.”
Jose Contreras (4-9) took the loss, allowing four runs and nine hits in 6 2-3 innings.
“There’s nothing much more I could have done,” he said through an interpreter. “Everything felt good out there, but the balls they hit just fell in the right places.”
Detroit went up 4-1 in the seventh on RBI singles by Adam Everett and Placido Polanco. The Tigers scored their final run on Laird’s suicide squeeze bunt in the eighth. They matched a season best with three stolen bases.
“We didn’t have runs coming in bunches, so we had to play small ball,” Laird said. “That’s how you win games some of the time.”
Chicago left the bases loaded in the second and stranded two more runners in the third.
The teams traded runs on sacrifice flies by Beckham and Polanco before Detroit took a 2-1 lead in the fourth. Miguel Cabrera led off with a double, took third on Carlos Guillen‘s flyout and scored when Ryan Raburn‘s pop-up down the right-field line dropped between three players for a double.
NOTES: Guillen, activated before the game, received a loud ovation when he batted for the first time since May 4. To make room for Guillen, the Tigers designated OF Josh Anderson for assignment. … Buehrle donated his jersey from Thursday’s perfect game to the Hall of Fame. … Tigers president Dave Dombrowski said there is a chance RHP Jeremy Bonderman could return this season as a reliever. Bonderman has started only once in 14 months because of a blood clot in his pitching shoulder. … Between games, the Tigers activated RHP Eddie Bonine, who was scheduled to start the nightcap, and optioned RHP Freddy Dolsi to Triple-A Toledo.