Tigers lose game of catch-up in 14th
Detroit — It was like two games — one that was played at the end of June featuring Justin Verlander and some more late heroics from J.D. Martinez — and the other in the first few hours of July that featured some wacky baserunning and ultimate disappointment for the Tigers.
It only counts as one, though — a bitter 5-4, 14-inning loss to the Pirates.
"It's one of those games that sucks, obviously," said Martinez, whose two-run home run in the eighth tied the game at 4-4. "You hate to play that many innings and be in such a battle and come out on the losing end. But somebody's got to win.
"Just pick our heads up. Tomorrow is a new day."
The Pirates got the winner in the top of the 14th inning on a two-out double by Neil Walker off Tom Gorzelanny, after the Pirates nearly ran themselves out of the inning.
Gorkys Hernandez, a former Tigers prospect, was inserted as a pinch runner with one out. Pinch hitter Josh Harrison doubled into the gap in right-center.
Hernandez, who had run past second base, thought Rajai Davis had caught the ball and he started running back to first. He almost passed Harrison, and then he broke for third without touching second.
When the Tigers appealed, he was called out.
"You have to appeal it first," said manager Brad Ausmus, who held a meeting on the mound prior to the appeal to make sure it was executed properly. "If the umpires say he touched (second base), then you can go to replay."
The Tigers, though, couldn't close the inning. Walker ripped a two-strike double down the line in right field.
"Gorzo is kind of playing around with a new arm angle and we are trying to pick our spots where he can work on it," Ausmus said. "But in a game like this, he's got to pitch."
Alex Wilson had done yeoman's work, throwing 3.1 scoreless innings before giving up a single in the 14th.
"We knew they would hit Harrison, but Wilson was tired," Ausmus said. "That was his highest pitch count of the season (56 pitches). It was a tough spot to be in."
The only option left in the bullpen was Kyle Ryan, who is scheduled to start Thursday.
Some 5.5 hours earlier, Verlander took the mound for his third start of the season, his first since missing one with a stiff back. And by any measure, it was a struggle. Yet, within the struggle were pockets of hope.
"Not being able to throw much because of my back, I had some rust to knock off – evidently with that many walks," Verlander said. "But as it went along, I was able to reel it in a little bit and pitch better."
It took him three innings to find any semblance of command. Ten Pirates reached base in the first three innings, four walks, five hits, one error. Yet, he managed to limit the damage to three runs.
His final line — six innings, three runs, two earned, six hits, five walks two hit batters — is, by definition, a quality start.
"It happens when you don't pitch," Verlander said. "I was missing on a lot of pitches where if I was in a groove, they would be hitting the corner. I was just off. But I was able to pitch around it for the most part.
"After three innings I just tried to attack the hitters. I wanted to make them hurt me and not the other way around. I was hurting myself."
Verlander didn't give up a hit after the fourth and his fastball, 90-93 mph most of the game, hit 95 and 96 in the last couple innings.
"The back responded well, it didn't spasm up on me at all," he said. "Now hopefully I can get into a routine and go out every fifth day and toe the rubber. I just want to get into a rhythm and not have to play catch-up anymore. That's the goal."