Chicago — He wants to trust his starters, likes to trust his starters.
And he does trust his starters.
But in an 8-2 loss to the White Sox on Wednesday night, manager Brad Ausmus went a pitch too far with Justin Verlander in the sixth inning — and after that, the entire game fell apart for the Tigers.
Or as Verlander would put it later, “Everything that can go wrong is going wrong. Not just for myself, but for this team.”
Seven runs later, the White Sox were headed for their second win in a row over the Tigers, who’ve now lost 16 of their last 22.
And for the first time, Ausmus not only sounded annoyed, but without getting into specifics, admitted he was.
“I’m not happy,” he said. “I am not happy.”
Not one to elaborate on the negative, Ausmus left it at that.
In terms of strategy backfiring on him, this wasn’t Ausmus’ finest hour, though.
He had anticipated a low-scoring game in the fifth inning when he asked Eugenio Suarez to bunt runners from first-and-second to second-and-third — which the rookie did.
But with the score tied at 1, the Tigers stranded the runners, foiling the strategy.
And when Ausmus went out to the mound in the sixth to make sure Verlander had something left in the tank, Verlander said he did.
But he walked the next batter to load the bases and on his 122nd pitch, the most he’s thrown this season, Verlander gave up a first-pitch, two-run single to Gordon Beckham — pushing Ausmus over the fine line between trust and too much trust in one’s starter.
“His stuff again was good,” Ausmus said, “but it sounds as if I’m repeating myself. His stuff was good. My intent in the sixth was that, as long as he felt OK, I wanted to leave him in, and he said he felt fine.
“There’s nothing that particularly concerns me (about Verlander), but we have to find a way to fix it.”
Because of the Tigers’ slump, there’s now not a team in the American League Central more than 3.5 games out of first.
Heading into the bottom of the sixth, the Tigers and White Sox were tied at 1. Until then, the game had been a pitching duel between Verlander and Sox lefty John Danks.
It was soon not to be, though.
On three consecutive singles, the Sox loaded the bases with no outs.
But when Dayan Viciedo hit into a double-play, it looked like a fair exchange: Two outs for a run, albeit the tie-breaking run.
The scoring didn’t end there, though. Alejandro De Aza blooped a single into right, making it 3-1.
Both Viciedo and DeAza had taken Verlander to full counts, raising his pitch count to 110.
That’s elevated, but well within what Verlander can handle.
There was no rest for the soon-to-be-weary, however. On a 3-1 count, Verlander walked catcher Adrian Nieto.
“I felt good, but I have to limit the walks,” said Verlander, after issuing four of them for the second consecutive start. “I turned it into a big inning when it shouldn’t have been.
“I’m going to stop tinkering. The stuff is there. I have to stop walking guys because they set up big innings.
“That was on me.”
Ausmus made a brief visit to the mound at that point, with Verlander at 115 pitches, but apparently heard what he wanted to hear about what his starter still had in the tank.
Or thought he had in the tank.
But Verlander walked Adam Eaton, too, loading the bases — putting him at 121 pitches, one more than he had thrown in any game this season.
Ausmus stuck with him — but on the next pitch, Beckham singled in two runs.
That was it for Verlander (6-6), but not for the White Sox in the bottom of the sixth.
Against Ian Krol, Conor GIllaspie doubled in two runs.
And after an intentional walk to Jose Abreu, whose long home run had accounted for the only run off Verlander (6-6) before the sixth inning, Adam Dunn singled in Gillaspie to make it a seven-run inning.
What had looked like a strong start for Verlander became one that raised his ERA from 4.19 to 4.61 instead.
The Tigers countered with a run in the top of the seventh, but nothing more.
Verlander’s pitching line looks ugly, and is ugly — what with seven runs allowed on eight hits and four walks in 5.2 innings — but for five innings, he looked to be near the top of his game.
Ausmus thought so, too, or else he wouldn’t have had Suarez sacrificing in the fifth inning of a 1-1 tie after a leadoff double by Nick Castellanos and a pitch that hit Alex Avila.
“I thought if we could get a lead with the way Ver was pitching, we’d be in good shape,” Ausmus said.
It didn’t work out that way.
The frustration of the no-run fifth was nothing, though, compared to the frustration of the seven-run sixth.