Case closed between Tigers, O’s?
The case of Bud Norris, Torii Hunter and Paul Nauert is now closed, if it wasn’t already. The history between Justin Verlander and Nelson Cruz might well go on.
Perhaps it was fitting that soon after an MLB spokesperson said the investigation was closed on Monday’s bench-clearing incident between Norris and Hunter, Justin Verlander seemingly provided on-field closure in Wednesday’s Tigers-O’s series finale with a fastball behind Cruz.
It drew warnings for both dugouts from home plate umpire John Tumpane, and what we’ll call a bodily adjustment from Cruz. It also provided a spark for the Orioles.
“I don’t know if it was on purpose or not. Only he knows that,” Cruz said. “I think that got me going, woke me up.”
Said O’s manager Buck Showalter: “I think he helped us make an adjustment, kind of got everybody on a different intensity level after he threw at Nelson.”
The score, at least, supported the notion. It was a 5-0 game when Verlander threw the fourth-inning wayward pitch. It was 6-5 by the time Verlander finished off the fifth.
The fact that Cruz produced two big hits during the rally didn’t go against the idea at all. On the next pitch after the inside fastball, it took a diving stop up the middle from Danny Worth to make sure Cruz’s single didn’t drive in a run. An inning later, he got under a curveball that was headed for the dirt and sent it out for a three-run homer.
“We knew it was going to come at some point this series,” O’s catcher Steve Clevenger said. “It is what it is. And it kind of fired us up and woke us up a bit.”
Verlander, not surprisingly, denied there was any purpose to the pitch.
“It just slipped,” Verlander said.
Manager Brad Ausmus, who suggested two days earlier the situation was over, supported the notion.
“As skilled as pitchers are at this level, balls get away from pitchers,” Ausmus said. “It’s as simple as that, just like I’m sure the ball got away from Bud Norris [on Monday].”
It’s a little more complicated than that between Verlander and Cruz. It was Cruz who tormented the Tigers during the 2011 ALCS with one big hit after another, including a blast off a 100 mph fastball from Verlander in Game 5 at Comerica Park. Cruz supposedly celebrated the shot a bit much.
“I didn’t see it,” Verlander said at the time. “I don’t know if he’s giving himself props or maybe me props. I don’t know. But I heard that they maybe said I was staring him down in the dugout. I didn’t see anything. I had no problem.”
The home run was Cruz’s third against Verlander in his career, including postseason play. The only active player with more than three (not counting Alex Rodriguez at this point) is Verlander’s teammate, Victor Martinez.
Since the O’s and Tigers are done for the regular season schedule, the only chance they could meet again would be in postseason play. Maybe if the O’s fall out of the race and trade Cruz, Verlander and Detroit could meet him again in the regular season.