Thursday: Verlander might have summed it up well
Justin Verlander has been known to blurt out exclamations in frustration on the mound. He does it the first time he takes the mound during spring training workouts, so of course he’s going to do it during a game. His parents got him to cover his mouth with his glove when he can so that lip-readers can’t pick it up on TV.
On Thursday, it was hard to miss. It was a one-word exclamation after he missed with a 2-1 pitch to Endy Chavez, and it was loud enough to hear from the press box.
“It was 2-1,” Verlander said. “I knew I didn’t throw a strike. I threw a ball.”
It was frustration over one pitch, but by the end of Thursday’s 2-0 shutout to the Mariners that thwarted their attempt at their first sweep at Safeco Field since 2006, it might as well have summed up the day.
Alex Avila hinted at the frustration afterwards.
“When you’re able to get the first two, you always try to get the sweep,” he said. “But I think as disappointing sometimes as losing a game that you feel like you should’ve won, a series win is always good.”
You get the sense they felt like this was their game to take. The aggressive sense is there, but the results clearly were not.
When Jim Leyland talks about not believing in momentum in baseball, this is what he means. The Tigers had their ace going and their confidence in kind, taking on a Mariners squad that was reeling from a 14-inning loss and a quick turnaround for a day game, and Hisashi Iwakuma took any semblance of momentum away. The only carryover was the sense of a tightly pitched duel, and the offensive struggles that boggled Detroit even in the two games they won.
Take away Miguel Cabrera’s two-run homer and four-RBI performance in the opener, and the M’s kept the Tigers offense contained pretty well. Their two other runs Tuesday came on back-to-back walks with the bases loaded. Their two runs Wednesday scored on groundouts, the first of them fueled in large part by an Andy Dirks hit-and-run double. But Felix Hernandez does that to a lot of teams.
Iwakuma to starting to pile up teams he has quieted, too, for that matter. Still, with just two strikeouts over six innings, this wasn’t the same performance he had put on the A’s, White Sox and Rangers. The numbers for several Tigers hitters took a beating for the series, cooling off some previously hot bats.
Bigger picture, it shouldn’t linger. A single win against the Angels this weekend would give the Tigers a winning record on their only trip to the West Coast this season, and that’s a feat. Taking two out of three would give Detroit a 6-3 record on the trek. The last time they went to all three AL West Coast cities in 2008, they went 3-6. When they made the same trip in April 2006, they went 6-3, and the momentum carried over to a 6-1 homestand.
Play of the game: Kyle Seager stepped off the Mariners bench, pinch-hit in the seventh inning, jumped a first-pitch fastball from Verlander and lined it into the left-field corner. Verlander was kicking himself over it after the game, but it was still a quick bat from Seager.
Biggest out: Endy Chavez’s diving catch in the ninth inning was a highlight play, but the double play Iwakuma got on Prince Fielder iwth oneout in the fourth following a Miguel Cabrera arguably had a bigger impact.
Line of the day: Fielder broke out of his series slump with a single and a double, but the double play and the Chavez kept him from a potential slump-busting game. He went 2-for-4.