'Inexcusable': Tigers unravel in sixth, skid hits four
Minneapolis – All the omens seemed in the Tigers’ favor Friday. Justin Verlander on the mound against the Twins, a team he has long dominated. Eleven straight wins against the Twins at Target Field.
A 3-0 lead entering the bottom of the sixth inning.
Surely, the Tigers were about to disinfect the residue of those three sloppy losses in Tampa.
Verlander, who had to that point allowed just two hits, uncharacteristically walked the first three batters in the sixth, which provided the tinder for a six-run uprising and a 6-3 Twins' win.
“Inexcusable,” Verlander said afterward. “I lost my tempo, my rhythm. That many walks with us up like that, it can’t happen.”
Verlander gave up a two-run, broken-bat single to Robbie Grossman before departing. Kyle Ryan got one out before giving way to rookie Joe Jimenez.
“We needed a strikeout,” manager Brad Ausmus said of his decision to use Jimenez. “The tying run was on third and the go-ahead run was at second. We needed a strikeout and I felt he was our best option to get a strikeout.”
Understandable. In his last two outings at Triple-A Toledo, Jimenez struck out six in two innings. This time, the strikeout came too late.
Jorge Polanco tied the game with a bloop single, then Eddie Rosario clobbered a first-pitch, 96-mph fastball and deposited it into the left-field seats for a three-run home run.
And a four-game skid for the Tigers.
Verlander felt as bad for the position he put Jimenez in as he did for himself.
“I would hate for him to judge himself too harshly or feel down about what he did today,” Verlander said. “That’s a tough spot for him to come in. I think he’s going to be great for a long time and he can’t let this one outing cause him to doubt himself.
“His stuff plays, man. He’s going to be really key for us moving forward. This is all on me. I put that kid in a tough spot. Just have to be better.”
It was such an odd outing for Verlander. His stuff was electric, evidenced by the three measly singles he allowed, plus the 98-mph heat he used to strike out Miguel Sano with a runner at third and one out in the third.
Yet, his command was as erratic as it’s been in years – a decade to be exact. He walked a total of six batters, the most since he walked seven in August of his rookie season (2006). He went to nine three-ball counts.
“It was kind of a timing thing,” Verlander said. “It will throw off everything here and there. You are a little late or a little early, you yank one or you are high on the arm side. My timing all night wasn’t quite there.
“I was fighting it all day.”
After allowing three runs or less in 20 straight starts, Verlander has now allowed nine and four runs in his last two.
“It’s inexcusable,” he repeated. “Can’t walk that many guys. I’d rather throw it right down the middle and say, ‘Here you go, hit it,’ and hope our defenders can make a play. That just shouldn’t happen.
“My stuff is where I need it. But I need to be more consistent. There were too many balls that just weren’t swing-able…There’s just a general mix of things that need to be tightened up.”
That wasn’t all the bad news for the Tigers, though. Miguel Cabrera, who had three singles, came out of the game after the sixth inning with a right groin strain. He will be re-evaluated on Saturday.
The Tigers got four of their seven hits off starter Hector Santiago in the third inning. With two out, Castellanos, Cabrera and Victor Martinez (RBI) singled. Justin Upton plated another with a screaming double to center.
James McCann provided the third run all by himself with a 404-foot blast into the left-field seats. It was his sixth hit of the season and fourth home run. And it continues his torrid hitting at Target Field.
In 10 previous games in Minneapolis, he hit .417 with a .833 slugging percentage and 1.281 OPS. The homer Friday was his fourth in this yard.
Four straight losses and the Tigers are back to .500 on the season – 8-8.