While it wasn’t a perfect game or a no hitter, “Must See” Justin Verlander was back to his old television tricks tonight at Comerica Park. Through eight strong innings and 14 strikeouts, the ace pitched the Detroit Tigers to an impressive 7-2 win over the vaunted New York Yankees.
Verlander was seeking to end a string of two subpar starts, and against the ferocious Yankees, the task didn’t seem as daunting this night. Verlander made fast work of New York’s hitters in the first two innings. Then, Prince Fielder got the Tigers on the board with a laser beam home run off Ivan Nova. Verlander kept that lead intact, wiggling around trouble in the third, and gained more run support from his other big bopper. Miguel Cabrera, duplicating a feat from early June also against the Yankees, pounded a home run above the shrubbery in center field for Detroit’s 2-0 advantage. A fielding error by Verlander gifted the Yankees two runs in the fifth inning, as Derek Jeter and Robinson Cano tied the game with singles. Omar Infante and Austin Jackson quickly helped the Tigers regain a 4-2 lead with a singles of their own, while Andy Dirks added another tally with a sacrifice fly. In the sixth, the bottom fell out on Nova some more. Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta each singled in runs, powering Detroit to a 7-2 late inning advantage.
With the pitching the Tigers enjoyed, that lead kept easily. The offense didn’t tack on more runs, but Verlander didn’t need them anyway. When he faced down rare trouble in the eighth inning after walking the leadoff man, Jim Leyland came out and uttered a few words of encouragement. Then, Verlander proceeded to dismiss Nick Swisher, Eric Chavez and Ichiro Suzuki via strikeout, closing his night to scores of applause. Jose Valverde worked the ninth, keeping additional runs off the board and preserving Verlander’s gem.
Big Cat: Justin Verlander. Outside of one bad play, the old Verlander was back tonight. After two poor starts (by Verlander’s lofty standards of course) the reigning Cy Young award winner and A.L. MVP had to be itching to get back on the mound. He was, and it looked as if the Yankees didn’t have a chance to hit him at all during certain stretches. 14 strikeouts (equaling a career high) 132 pitches and no earned runs against the Yankees on the big, “Monday Night Baseball” stage. If that isn’t the markings of a big cat, nothing is.
Stray Kitty: None. Solid effort for the Tigers tonight helped extend a winning streak. Give the team credit for not resting on their laurels after sweeping the Indians and getting a visit from the tough Yankees.
Best Play Of The Game: The Tigers’ three run response in the bottom of the fifth inning. After the Yankees took advantage of some rare Verlander sloppiness in the top of the fifth, the Tigers needed a fast response and they got it. Two RBI singles and a sacrifice fly helped Detroit regain a multiple run advantage in the same inning they had given one up. For momentums sake, this was the turning point. The Tigers added runs while Verlander got stronger as the game wore on.
Worst Play Of The Game: Justin Verlander’s dropped ball error at first base. If not for making the simple mistake of taking his eye off the ball, Verlander would have had the clean sheet tonight. Instead, he made an “oops” and dropped a sure out at first base, keeping the inning alive for the Yankee batters. Even if you’re a pitcher of Verlander’s caliber, New York will make you pay for mistakes once in a while. Such was the case in a forgettable top half of the fifth inning.
Central Focus: The Tigers’ fifth win in a row keeps the pressure on Chicago. The White Sox and Royals were tied in the eighth inning at the time of this being published. The Cleveland Indians may not warrant mention in this segment anymore. They were being dealt a 14-3 death blow by the Minnesota Twins tonight, which screams goodnight.
On Deck: The Tigers will send Rick Porcello to the mound in hopes of extending their winning streak. He will be opposed by Phil Hughes. The game begins at 7:05 p.m.