There’s an adage in baseball that you can’t predict it, and every so often we get a game that reminds us of how true that actually is. Tonight was definitely one of them. What had been billed as the pitcher’s duel of the season turned out to be a dud. Yu Darvish was alright – subpar by his standards but good enough in the context of the game – but Justin Verlander was flat out terrible as the Rangers hammered him to the tune of a 10-4 victory.
From the outset, Verlander struggled again, coming off a shaky outing against Cleveland last Saturday. Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus led off the game with consecutive singles against him, and Kinsler scored on a groundout. Verlander was throwing plenty hard, but there was no shortage of balls hit straight up the middle – a rather concerning sign.
Darvish started off well enough, but he came undone a bit in the third inning, starting with an inexplicable home run into the right field seats by none other than temporary center fielder Don Kelly. Omar Infante and Andy Dirks singled after that, and a Torii Hunter sac fly gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead. Cabrera blasted a double to left that got Dirks to third, and, after an intentional walk to Prince Fielder, Victor Martinez made it 3-1 on a sac fly after a lengthy battle against Darvish. The Tigers had a 3-1 lead and Darvish’s pitch count was up over 60. If Verlander was himself, nothing to worry about.
Unfortunately Verlander was not himself at all. He gave up two straight singles to start the third inning, then hit Ian Kinsler with a curveball to load the bases with nobody out. Verlander then completely lost the plot, walking Andrus with the bases loaded. He struck out Lance Berkman to give himself a temporary reprieve, but blew that by forcing in another run by walking Adrian Beltre. He then struck out Nelson Cruz to give himself a chance at getting out of the inning tied, but then things really fell apart for Verlander: he hung an 0-2 slider to Mitch Moreland, who ripped it into the right field corner, scoring two runs. He then left a fastball up to light-hitting catcher Geovany Soto, who blasted a three run homer to make it 8-3.
The game was pretty much over then. Jhonny Peralta homered in the 4th to make it 8-4 and spark a few dreams of a comeback against Darvish, but the Rangers ace ended up going eight innings and an inexplicable 130 pitches, retiring 15 of the last 16 Tigers he faced, striking out six. He was not great, but he was good enough. The Rangers added a run on a Mitch Moreland double in the fifth and a Nelson Cruz homer in the seventh.
Verlander’s issues are easy to identify but tougher to fix. The stuff wasn’t the problem: he hit 99 on his fastball for the first time all season and was throwing hard all night. There was, however, no command to speak of, and Verlander paid dearly for it. He looked, at times, more like the pre-2009 version of himself that was inconsistent and got too amped up at times. The issues may be mechanical or mental, but they do not appear to be physical or injury-related.
That’s about it, and from a Tigers perspective, the less said about this one the better. Rick Porcello battles Nick Tepesch tomorrow night as the Tigers aim to even the series.