When Garrett Jones turned on a Justin Verlander fastball in the seventh inning and deposited it into the seats for a two-run homer, Verlander stood on the mound, mouth agape and a hand on his head. No one was as shocked at Jones’ game-tying blast as Verlander, who had absolutely cruised through six innings.
But after Jones knotted the game at two, the reeling Tigers’ offense managed to scrap out one last run — Delmon Young singled home Quintin Berry with two outs in the eighth, after the Pirates intentionally walked Prince Fielder. Verlander, with the help of a leaping Ryan Raburn catch at the wall, made sure that run was enough to get a win in Pittsburgh.
Verlander retired all six batters he faced in the eighth and ninth innings, to close out his eighth victory, with Raburn possibly pulling a home run back from Josh Harrison to end the eighth.
The Tigers, who lost the first two games of the series against the Pirates, jumped out to a very quick 2-0 lead. Austin Jackson led off the game with a single off Kevin Correia, then Quintin Berry smashed his first major-league home run — a bomb to deep right field.
Detroit’s offense went back to sleep after that, with just five hits the rest of the way.
That final base knock (Young’s single) turned out to be just enough.
Tigers’ MVP: Berry.
Verlander was spectacular again, the one bad pitch to Jones aside. With Jose Valverde unavailable to close things out again, Verlander threw 117 pitches to go the distance. Berry, though, after sitting out Saturday’s loss, was the spark plug for a Detroit offense in desperate need of one. He forced the intentional walk of Fielder in the ninth by stealing second base after taking a walk. Berry might be outperforming his capabilities on offense, but given how lackluster the rest of this lineup has been, he has to be in the lineup every day.
Tigers’ Goat: Alex Avila/Jhonny Peralta.
Not that Miguel Cabrera or Fielder or anyone is really producing at the moment, but Avila and Peralta — two guys who had career years during the 2011 run — continue to generate zilch at the plate. They combined for an 0-for-8 on Sunday, with Peralta’s deep fly out to center the only ball either of them hit hard.
What’s Next: Amazingly, the Tigers could be within 2.5 games of first by the end of the day. Things don’t get any easier, though, with a three-game set in Texas starting Monday. Detroit won’t have the luxury of throwing Verlander out there either, so the offense must awaken. Monday will pit Rick Porcello against rookie Jason Grimm, with Yu Darvish and Roy Oswalt also scheduled to go for the Rangers in the three-game set.