The first three innings of Thursday night’s games was basically the equivalent of of a bible study held by the nuns from the Sound of Music. This was with Justin Verlander starting for a Detroit. Perhaps it was the broadcast I had (Indians) or maybe it was just a Thursday night at the end of July. Two months are still left in what is expected to be a tight race for the division crown and the Tigers’ annual trade is three days gone. I’m not sure what it was but for the first time in a long time I was kind of, sort of, maybe hoping that the game would have been rained out so I could go forth and watch a movie or organize my sock drawer. You know, I do need to change the oil on my truck, it’s not as if I didn’t have anything better to do.
But the game was delayed by rain for just a half hour, and Verlander squared off with Zach McAllister, who is arguably the Tribe’s best pitcher this year. You know that you’ve had a disappointing season when McAllister is your best pitcher. This is meant as no disrespect to the young man, who is quite talented at throwing a baseball, much more so than I, but that simply means your other starting pitchers haven’t pitched quite up to snuff, which can never be good, and isn’t in the Indians case.
It’s not as if I hate pitching duels, because I’d rather see a 0-0 game than a 10-9 game any night of the week, but you couldn’t even classify the game as a pitching duel. Runs were scored, hits were struck. But it all had a “meh” feel to it. Like the whole game was played with that post-afternoon-nap haze that you stumble around with for a few minutes. This was just over the course of the entire game.
Austin Jackson led the rain delayed game off with a single and moved to second on an error by the Indians’ third baseman Jose Lopez (this also continues the trend of “if player x is your starting third baseman, then your season hasn’t quite lived up to snuff” storyline mentioned earlier). After Quintin Berry and Miguel Cabrera both struck out, McAllister looked like he would get out of the inning, but gave up a two out single to Prince Fielder, who quietly now has 70 RBI on the season, walked Delmon Young, and then managed to retire Brennan Boesch on a grounder to first.
Shin Soo Choo led off the Indians half of the first with a long double to center field on the first pitch he saw from Verlander, moved to third on a ground out from Asdrubal Cabrera, and scored on a fly ball to let field off the bat of Jason Kipnis. The first inning ended with a Michael “Why is he batting cleanup” Brantley fly ball to center and after one inning of play the score was 1-1.
The second inning accounted for nothing more than a pair of singles for Ramon Santiago and (again) Jackson in between a strike out, line out, and ground out for the Tigers and a ground out, fly out, and line out for the Indians.
Prince Fielder singled with one out in the third but was left on base and the Indians did nothing on a Shelley Duncan one out walk. The most interesting part of the game so far was that Verlander finally struck his first batter out, Choo, who was the tenth batter Verlander faced.
In the fourth Alex Avila tagged the first pitch he saw from McAllister into center field for a single. Once again, McAllister looked like he was going to skate out of the inning, but for Austin Jackson and his third hit of the game (I said this game was boring, and it was, yet Jackson had his third hit by the fourth inning. This just seems like an odd statement, don’t you think?). The inning ended for the Tigers though, as Jackson was caught in a run down between first and second and tagged for the final out by Carlos Santana, the Tribe Receiver.
Aside from the Choo double to lead the game off, Verlander hadn’t seen a lick of trouble through the first three. In the fourth he walked Kipnis and then allowed (cleanup hitter!) Brantley to single on a soft popup to left field. Two men were on and no one was out. Verlander managed to get Santana to ground to first base and Fielder made a nice throw to Santiago at second, who then chucked a seed on the return to Verlander who was covering for a rally destroying double dip. Travis Hafner grounded to short to end the inning and Verlander once again got out of the inning without the benefit of a strikeout.
The middle of the game saw six men up and six men down, but Delmon Young – who is quietly, almost emptily having a nice season in terms of counting stats – homered for the eleventh time this year to lead off the sixth. After that, the sixth frame ended without anything significant happening. Both starting pitchers had completed a “quality” start and neither looked like they were coming out of the game anytime soon. Neither offense was really making them throw any high leverage pitches.
The Tigers, in the top half of the seventh, kicked McAllister out of the game. After Omar Infante popped out to shortstop, Jackson walked – his fourth time on base in the game – and Quintin Berry, who had been 0-for-3 to that point, singled to the right side and forced Indians Manager Manny Acta to go to his bullpen.