Iwakuma Halts Tigers Win Streak; Magic Number Drops Anyway

This is another of those “the less said, the better” ballgames. Very little went right for the Tigers on Wednesday night and they were unable to do anything against Hisashi Iwakuma in an 8-0 loss.

Iwakuma was the story, though the Tigers had their chances to get to him early. A Don Kelly single and a Prince Fielder double put runners at second and third with two out in the first, and Mariners manager Eric Wedge made the interesting decision to intentionally walk Victor Martinez to pitch to the struggling Matt Tuiasosopo. Tuiasosopo struck out on a breaking ball in the dirt, ending that threat. Their other chance came in the fourth, where Iwakuma had some control trouble and got little help from his defense. Martinez singled, Tuiasosopo walked, and Alex Avila reached on an error by Kyle Seager to load the bases with one out. Hernan Perez, playing in place of a gimpy Omar Infante, promptly grounded into a 6-4-3 double play to end that threat.

Iwakuma went on to retire the next ten batters in a row, with the Tigers not getting another baserunner until Austin Jackson singled with one out in the eighth inning.

By that point, the game was effectively over. Justin Verlander wasn’t great, but he wasn’t bad either. He had some early command issues and fell behind too many batters, and early walks came back to bite him in the second when a leadoff walk to Justin Smoak scored on a Michael Saunders double. A Nick Franklin single scored Saunders and put the Mariners up 2-0 in the second. That score held until the sixth inning, when Smoak homered over the left field fence to make it 3-0. Verlander ended up going 7 innings and gave up just four hits. The three walks, however, were a sticking point.

Verlander would have been okay had he gotten a bit of run support, and the bullpen ensured Verlander would not get off the hook. Jim Leyland tried Phil Coke again, and Phil Coke continued to prove himself completely useless, even against lefties – though he did retire the first two left hand batters he faced. Righty Franklin Gutierrez doubled off him, and Leyland tried to give him a favorable matchup by intentionally walking switch-hitter Kendrys Morales to set up a two out, one on battle with Smoak, a switch hitter hitting just .184 against lefties and OPSing under .500. It didn’t matter as Smoak singled in a fourth Mariners run. Saunders – a lefty – then doubled in another run and Coke’s day ended as he intentionally walked Franklin to load the bases. To add insult to injury, Al Alburquerque came in and threw a wild pitch which led to two runs when Alex Avila’s attempt at throwing the first runner out went wild, resulting in a second run scoring. Gutierrez added one more run in the ninth with a solo homer off Luke Putkonen.

In spite of themselves, the Tigers did reduce their magic number to five as the Royals beat Cleveland 7-2, thus keeping the fading hopes of a clinch at home in play – though Detroit will need some help from the lowly Houston Astros to make it happen.

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