VerHagen secures win as Tigers salvage split
Cleveland — What do you get when you are out of the playoff race and you battle back at the end of a long day of baseball to salvage a split of a doubleheader?
A beer shower.
Well, that's what rookie right-hander Drew VerHagen got Sunday night after earning his first major league victory in a 9-2 win over the Indians.
"I have a hair full of beer from a beer shower," said a smiling VerHagen. "But no game ball."
VerHagen pitched two scoreless and hitless innings of relief and the Tigers offense finally came to life after losing the first game of the doubleheader 7-2.
"It's a really, really cool feeling," VerHagen said. "It's something I dreamed about forever and it's awesome to finally experience it."
VerHagen, Neftali Feliz and Jose Valdez combined to pitch six innings of one-hit, shutout relief after veteran Randy Wolf started and gave up two runs in the first inning.
"It's awesome for Drew," said Nick Castellanos, who had three hits in the nightcap. "He's pitched the heck out of the ball for three weeks."
The Tigers scored six times off Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer in the third and fourth innings. J.D. Martinez delivered a two-out, two-run single in the third.
Then they turned five hits and a walk into four runs in the fourth. Rookie Dixon Machado doubled in a run — his first major league RBI. Rajai Davis singled in two and the fourth run scored on a double-play ground ball by Miguel Cabrera.
J.D. Martinez wound up with three hits and three RBIs. Machado also knocked in a pair of runs before he had to leave the game in the fifth inning. His left hamstring tightened up as he legged out a fielder's choice ground ball.
"We don't think it's overly serious," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He's day to day."
Machado also said he thought he'd be fine.
"We're never just going to roll out there and be like, 'Ah we lost, so what,'" Castellanos said. "We're competitors. Every time we put on the uniform, we want to win."
Game 1 was a near replica of the Tigers loss to the Indians last Sunday at Comerica Park.
In that one seven days ago, Justin Verlander gave up a three-run sixth inning to the Indians after holding them to just one hit through five. It was rookie shortstop Francisco Lindor getting the big hit, a two-run triple.
On Sunday, Verlander allowed one hit through four before giving up three in the fifth. Guess who got the clutch, two-out, two-run single – yep, Lindor.
"I actually thought Justin threw the ball pretty well," Ausmus said. "The box score isn't as good as you'd like it, but he was victimized by some softly hit, well placed balls."
Verlander contributed to his own demise, though. He walked Lonnie Chisenall and Abraham Almonte around a double by Yan Gomes in that fifth inning. One run scored on a soft single on a 1-2 slider by Chris Johnson.
Then Verlander took it up a notch. With the bases still loaded and nobody out, he got Jose Ramirez to pop out on a 97 mph fastball and Jason Kipnis to do the same on a 96 mph fastball.
He got ahead of Lindor 1-2 with 96 and 97 mph fastballs. But he tried to get him out with an 82 mph off-speed pitch and Lindor slapped it into centerfield.
"Kind of a mixed bag," Verlander said. "For the most part I felt I threw the ball pretty well. They strung together a few hits and scratched out some runs. I can't be too disappointed with the execution. None of the balls were hit that hard, except for the ball Gomes hit down the first baseline."
Verlander gave up a soft run in the sixth inning, too. With two outs, he hit Yan Gomes on a 0-2 pitch. A single by Almonte moved Gomes to third and Johnson, jammed by a 92 mph fastball, blooped a single into shallow right field.
Everything after the fifth was just icing for the Indians. The Tigers, again, maxed out offensively at two runs. It was seventh time in 10 starts they've scored two runs or fewer for Verlander.
They scored their first run on the first three pitches of the game. A double by Anthony Gose and a single by Ian Kinsler. They didn't score again for another 90 pitches against Indians starter Cody Anderson.
J.D. Martinez led off the sixth with a double and scored on a sacrifice fly by Castellanos. That made it 3-2. Anderson was replaced by Zach McAllister, who promptly walked Steven Moya, James McCann and Machado to load the bases with two outs.
Indians manager Terry Francona brought in right-hander Jeff Manship to face left-handed hitting Anthony Gose. Manship struck Gose out after a lengthy battle.
That was the last gasp for the Tigers in Game 1.
"Glad we scored some runs in that second game," Ausmus said. "It would have been painful otherwise."
The combined attendance for both games was announced at 13,387 but by the end of the second game, there couldn't have been more than 1,000 people in the stands. And the Indians were 3½ games out of the second wild card spot.