Not getting a win for a while seems to have frustrated Justin Verlander, and the National League is starting to pay the price. For the second game in a row, he took his frustration out on an unlucky opponent from the senior circuit. Verlander worked seven strong innings, helping the Detroit Tigers defeat the St. Louis Cardinals by the final score of 6-3.
The Tigers would continue their recent trend of striking first and striking fast. Miguel Cabrera doubled to right, and two batters later, Delmon Young knocked him in with a single before the inning ended with a rundown. The very next inning, Detroit strung together two singles and a bunt single, loading the bases. The scorching hot Austin Jackson found the gap in right center one batter later, doubling in two runs and giving the Tigers a 3-0 advantage. Quintin Berry grounded out, plating Ramon Santiago from third, adding another run to the lead. Early on, Lance Lynn was getting battered. His contemporary sitting in the other dugout had no such issues. Outside a double by Matt Holliday, Verlander set down the Cardinals with plenty of 1-2-3 innings, putting out 10 in a row before finally allowing a single in the fifth. The Tigers pressured Lynn again in the bottom of the fifth with more baserunners, and Young added another RBI with a bloop single to make it 5-0. In spite of a groundout getting St. Louis their first run of the night, the Tigers responded, and rode a commanding 6-1 lead into the seventh inning by adding another RBI single by Cabrera.
As it turns out, those extra runs were needed. The Cardinals got two in the top of the seventh inning after Verlander walked a pair, and a big error by Berry in left field helped plate the runs. Gerald Laird failed to deliver with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh, grounding into a double play. Joaquin Benoit worked a quick, scoreless eighth inning. As the Tigers batted in the eighth, Jose Valverde appeared to injure himself warming up, forcing Phil Coke to nail things down in the ninth. Coke did just that, getting three quick outs and earning the emergency save.
Big Cat: Delmon Young. On a night where Jackson, Cabrera and Berry also qualify, the nod goes to Young, who contributed two big hits and knocked in two runs with those hits. With Jhonny Peralta and Brennan Boesch improving their offensive standing in recent weeks, Young is the critical missing element which could boost Detroit’s offense. Tonight he did just that with two hits in key situations. That effort was nice to see for a struggling hitter who the Tigers need to get a bit hotter.
Stray Kitty: Gerald Laird. Many have been quick to point out Laird’s higher bating average and better hitting this year. That’s quickly coming back down to earth. Tonight, with the bases loaded, Laird was pathetic, popping out in a great hitters count and grounding into a double play when insurance runs were needed late. Yes, Laird has been serviceable, but he hasn’t exactly been fantastic at the plate, especially in key situations.
Best Play Of The Game: Detroit’s fundamentally sound second inning which led to three runs. The Tigers loaded the bases perfectly with three singles, one coming on a creative bunt by Ramon Santiago with two runners on. Jackson broke the game open a bit with his big double which scored two, getting the team off and running on the scoreboard and giving Verlander all the support he would essentially need. The bunt was an excellent call by Jim Leyland not just to move the runners over, but to give a good handler of the bat in Santiago the chance to reach on an infield single which he did. That directly led to another run, and helped along a big inning for Detroit’s offense.
Worst Play Of The Game: Quintin Berry’s dropped ball in left field. At the worst possible time, Berry looked to have a tougher running catch sewn up that would get the Tigers out of the bases loaded jam. Instead, he dropped the ball, allowing two runs to score. Berry has been an interesting fielder this season. He’s made some amazing catches, but other times, he looks just as lost.
Central Focus: The Tigers’ early victory puts them in position to inch closer to Cleveland and Chicago. At the time of this being published, the White Sox were losing late to the Cubs and the Indians were losing an extra inning tussle with the Reds. Either way, Detroit only stands to gain by virtue of their victory, and will not lose any ground on their 2.5 game (and suddenly shrinking) deficit.
On Deck: The second game of this series takes place tomorrow night at 7:05 p.m. Rick Porcello will oppose former Cleveland Indian Jake Westbrook in a throwback matchup from the American League Central Division.