Verlander looked extremely sharp early for the Tigers. After just a couple innings it seemed as if Sunday’s game might provide something special for fans. He needed just a handful of pitches to dispatch the first 11 batters of the day, until Josh Reddick broke up the perfect day with a soft line single in the bottom of the fourth inning.
The Detroit ace would escape without any damage done in the fourth, despite allowing Reddick to advance to third on a throwing error, but Oakland wouldn’t stay off the board for long. Seth Smith led off the bottom of the fifth inning with a long homer to right field to knot the game up at one. Verlander would continue on through the seventh inning to finish the day just giving up two hits, one earned run and one walk, while striking out eight batters.
Despite having a superior pitching performance from their ace, the Tigers continued to be snake bit on offense. It was not like the team didn’t have its chances either, as Andy Dirks was given two bases loaded opportunities and couldn’t drive a single run home. Dirks alone left seven men on base and the team as a whole left 18.
In the end though, despite stranding so many runners on base, an RBI from Austin Jackson and two from Miguel Cabrera were all Detroit needed to safely hand the ball over to Jose Valverde in the ninth inning.
If you were holding your breath in the bottom of the ninth, no one would blame you, as Valverde has been anything but a picture of perfection when it came to closing out games. Luckily for Tiger fans though, he gave them a rare 1-2-3 ninth inning to pull the team back to .500 before they head to Chicago to take on the White Sox tomorrow.
Tigers’ MVP: I mean how could you look past last year’s MVP for today’s award? Verlander was dazzling today and had some better stuff than he did in his no-hitters. Detroit’s ace probably could have gone more than seven innings, having only thrown 104 pitches, but there is no need to overwork him if the team doesn’t need to early in the season.
Tigers’ Goat: What did the Tigers give all that money to Price Fielder for? Oh right, it was to hit home runs, get on base and drive in runners. He has done very little of any of that so far this year and is currently mired in one of the worst slumps of his career. He went a rare 0-5 on Sunday and stranded five runners on base. He really only has one job on this squad and it is not to play defense. Fielder has got to start picking it up if this offense is going to turn it around.
Where they Stand: Detroit pulls back to .500 and are only one behind the Cleveland Indians in the race, read as walk, for the Central Division title. The next two days are pivotal ones early on for the Tigers, as they will faceoff against the Chicago White Sox, who are just two and a half games behind the Tigers in the division.