Verlander undone by one bad inning, no run support

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Justin Verlander follows through on a pitch in the fifth inning.

Detroit – Indians manager Terry Francona knew exactly why Brad Ausmus went to the mound in the sixth inning Sunday.

In a 0-0 game, the Indians had runners on first and second with nobody out. Rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor was up in an obvious bunt situation. On the first two pitches, the Tigers infielders, signals crossed, ran two different bunt plays.

“I went out there to try and get them on the same page,” Ausmus said.

Francona saw that and figured Justin Verlander, because he was expecting a bunt, would throw a fastball. So he took the bunt sign off.

“I took the bunt off after the first pitch, but Frankie kept trying to bunt because he's a young guy and he's trying to do the right thing,” Francona said. “After the second pitch, when Brad came out, I knew they were trying to fix their bunt play, so I yelled from the dugout until I got Frankie's attention and told him to swing.

“I knew he was going to get a good pitch to hit there.”

BOX SCORE: Indians 4, Tigers 0

He did and he didn’t miss it. Lindor whacked a two-run triple that keyed the Indians' 4-0 win and their first series win against the Tigers since July 2014.

“Obviously, it’s a big part of the game,” said Verlander, who allowed three runs in seven innings. “You have to tip your cap to Lindor there, and to Tito (Francona). Tito gave him the green light, and he executed it when the whole world thought he was bunting it.”

Francisco Lindor smacks a two-run triple in the sixth inning Sunday.

Verlander threw Lindor a 0-1 fastball to test whether he might be swinging away. When Lindor didn’t offer, he thought the bunt was still on.

“I was still aware (that he might swing),” Verlander said. “Obviously, when I left my leg up and look to the plate and he’s not squared around yet, I knew he wasn’t bunting. But I couldn’t change the pitch.”

Said Lindor: “I was trying to bunt the ball hard to short, because they were running all over the place. I kept trying to do that on the second pitch. When they were (talking) on the mound, (Francona) told me to swing away, and I knew I was going to get a fastball.”

The three earned runs allowed by Verlander matched his total from his last five starts combined. He certainly pitched well enough to win, but he continues to get limited support from the Tigers offense.

The Tigers average 2.9 runs when Verlander is on the mound this season, 4.5 for the other starters.

“I’ve said it time and time again, you can’t focus on run support,” Verlander said. “You just go out and do your job and hope we can scratch across a couple of runs. We weren’t able to tonight. In my last outing they scored some runs for me.

“Everything evens out. It’s been kind of unlucky, but luck turns.”

The Tigers got just two hits off Indians rookie right-hander Cody Anderson, three in the game.

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Twice they had runners at first and second with nobody out. Both rallies were snuffed by the double-play ball.

In the fourth, Anthony Gose walked and Dixon Machado reached on a bunt single. Miguel Cabrera (1 for 11 in the series) grounded into a 6-4-3 double play and J.D. Martinez flew out.

In the fifth, Victor Martinez led off with a double and Nick Castellanos walked. But Tyler Collins struck out and James McCann hit into a 4-6-3 double play.

“We’re trying to avoid frustration,” Verlander said. “With the veterans we have in here, I don’t think we’re going to be frustrated. You come in each and every day with the attitude that it’s a new day, no matter what happened previously.”

The Tigers are now 12 games under .500, a long way from where they thought they’d be this season.
“We had a lot of our key pieces that are missing and honestly, we’ve missed them all year,” Verlander said. “Whether it’s been injuries early on or the trades after the second half. It’s kind of disappointing we never had a chance to play as the team that was constructed.”

Twitter @cmccosky