Bunt ends Verlander’s perfect game, Tigers drop fifth straight
Seattle — It’s nights like this when you wonder if the Tigers will ever win again.
Justin Verlander was perfect. He blew through the first 16 Seattle Mariners he faced Wednesday night. He struck out 10 of those hitters in 5 1/3 innings and the Tigers were cruising, 4-0.
And then Jarrod Dyson dropped a bunt.
A perfect bunt. The perfect game and the no-hitter were gone and shortly thereafter, so was Verlander. He wouldn’t survive the inning and the Tigers wouldn’t survive the night. The Mariners scored seven uninterrupted runs, three in the sixth and four in the seventh, sending the Tigers to their season-high fifth straight loss, 7-5.
“It sucks, there’s no sugarcoating it,” Verlander said. “You feel like everything was rolling. We’re in a tough stretch of games and you feel we have control of this one. Then a couple of fluky things happen and the next thing you know we’re losing.
“There is no nice way to put it. You can’t say it’s an easy loss to handle; it’s not. But this is baseball and we have another game tomorrow. Can’t dwell on it.”
Verlander did not have an issue with Dyson bunting to break up the perfect game.
“It’s part of his game,” he said. “I don’t think it was quite too late to be in a situation to bunt, especially with it being a major part of what he does. I really didn’t have an issue with it. It’s not that I got upset about it.”
Dyson, though, seemed to think it rattled Verlander.
“I’d say I did my job,” he said. “I think he was kind of upset about it, but at the same time I have to play my game. I’m not going to let him dictate what I’m going to do. I’m going to go out there and continue to play my game.
“He was locked in the whole game. We just tried to make him uncomfortable a little bit.”
What made Verlander uncomfortable was having to work out of the stretch for the first time.
“Being my first time out of the stretch, I lost some rhythm to (Mike Zunino) and I walked him,” Verlander said.
He got a little unlucky when Jean Segura’s pop-up behind third base was overrun by shortstop Jose Iglesias.
“I saw the whole thing happen,” Verlander said. “The ball really came back late and Iggy overran it. It was a tough wind.”
With the bases loaded — and Verlander back pitching from a wind-up — Ben Gamel singled in one run. After Verlander fanned Robinson Cano for the second out, longtime Tigers’ nemesis Nelson Cruz rapped a two-run double.
“It all came down to executing a better pitch to Cruz,” Verlander said.
Verlander, at 110 pitches, gave way to Shane Greene, who got the final out of the inning.
The Mariners cranked it up again in the seventh. Mitch Haniger jumped a 95-mph fastball from Greene and deposited it in the left-field seats to tie the score.
Then, with two outs, Greene walked Segura, gave up a single to Gamel and a two-run double to Cano. Cruz knocked in the fourth run with a single off Alex Wilson.
Just like that, the Tigers have lost 10 of 13 and are seven games under .500. Startling.
“It’s not an easy pill to swallow,” Verlander said. “I will take my chances being up 4-0 nine times out of 10. It’s just one of those things. Those guys are rolling and we’re not. Once the ball gets rolling downhill, it’s kind of hard to stop.
“Somebody’s got to stop it. I was hoping it would be me today.”
Verlander made a couple of mechanical adjustments since his last outing, the most prominent one being with his shoulders in his delivery.
“He made a little adjustment after looking at some video,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “His shoulders were a little uphill and he kind of flattened them out, and I think that made a huge difference in both the life on his fastball and the break on his curve ball.
“What you saw tonight directly correlates to him making that adjustment.”
Verlander said he felt the difference within the first five pitches. He struck out the first batter he faced, Segura, with three straight fastballs. He struck out the second hitter Gamel with a 97-mph fastball. As he got into the second inning, he began to pinpoint his slider and curveball.
Especially the curveball. He got Kyle Seager and Danny Valencia to stare at it for called third strikes.
And from there the outs, and punch-outs, kept coming. He finished with a season-high 11 strikeouts.
“It’s the best I felt in a long time and I am optimistic about it,” he said. “I am kicking myself in the butt wishing I found these adjustments earlier. But it’s a fickle game. You can’t look back, you can only look forward.
“I am excited about the way I felt tonight. It’s what I’ve been searching for and feeling for the whole time.”
Verlander has not won a start since May 20. The Tigers are 2-4 in his last six.
A James McCann home run (his first since May 9) and three RBIs by Justin Upton staked Verlander to the 4-0 lead. Ian Kinsler hit his seventh home run with two outs in the ninth.
“We're playing like crap, overall,” Ausmus said. “We're losing games. There's not much to say. We've got to snap out of it somehow. I don't know if it's the chicken or the egg, but something's got to happen to turn the tide and we've got to do it pretty quick.”