Memo to the Tigers’ offense: If Justin Verlander allows just one run, perhaps you could score at least two.
It actually looked promising at the start of Saturday night’s game in Texas.
Austin Jackson led off the game with a solo home run off Rangers starter Derek Holland. Omar Infante followed with a single. And then, that was it. Miguel Cabrera struck out, Prince Fielder grounded out and Delmon Young struck out.
“I just tried to go out there and do everything I possibly could,” Holland told FOX Sports Detroit’s John Keating on the field after the game. “I was going out there, facing Verlander, one of the greatest pitchers in the game right now. I knew I had to make my pitches. As soon as they got the one run, I kept telling myself, that’s all they’re going to get. Keep battling out there, keep making your pitches and things will go your way.”
Holland was prophetic about the Tigers not getting more than that and appeared to gain confidence, allowing just two more baserunners in his 7 2/3 innings, which included retiring the final 10 he faced.
Verlander was equal to the task, allowing one run on three straight singles by Josh Hamilton, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz in the third inning.
“Obviously if you’re going to give up a run, you’d rather it be on a hard-hit ball somewhere,” Verlander told Keating on the postgame show. “That’s the game of baseball. Sometimes things don’t quite go your way.”
In all, Verlander gave up the one run on seven hits while striking out eight in seven innings.
In the ninth, the Tigers loaded the bases on walks to Cabrera and Fielder and a single by Young with just one out. Pinch hitter Brennan Boesch grounded into a force out at home and Jhonny Peralta flew out to center field to end the threat.
That set up the ninth for the Rangers. Brayan Villarreal walked the first two batters, Cruz and Michael Young.
Phil Coke came in and got Craig Gentry to pop out and Geovany Soto to strike out. Rookie pinch hitter Mike Olt fouled off several pitches in a nine-pitch at bat, finally getting the game-winning single past Cabrera at third base.
“It was a very good pitching matchup, obviously, with Holland and Verlander,” manager Jim Leyland said on the postgame show. “Holland really ate us up with his fastball. He looked really good. Verlander was terrific. We got a shot, we didn’t take advantage of it. They got one and they did.”
Of course, it would have helped had Villarreal not walked the first two batters in the bottom of the ninth.
“The only bad part about this loss is when you walk the first two guys in extra inning, you lose, most likely,” Leyland said. “We had our chance, we didn’t get it done. Then the kiss of death, you walk two guys in the bottom of the inning when you’re tied like that. You’re just totally, totally lucky if you get out of it.
“You just can’t do that.”
It’s not the first time that the Tigers have had a runner at third with one out or less and not gotten him home. It happened against the Yankees in their 4-3 loss Thursday when pinch runner Gerald Laird was on third with nobody out and never scored.
Those things happen in baseball. But it would be better if they didn’t happen when Verlander pitches the way he did.
“It’s always intense with Detroit, especially with the lineup they’ve got right now,” Holland said. “This is a huge game for us. It’s also a huge game for them. This was a great game. You’ve got to credit both teams. Both battled, both fought hard. We just came out on top.”