Chicago — Justin Verlander disputed the notion that the Tigers experienced an emotional letdown Friday night, getting walked-off by the White Sox 3-2 after the high-strung, fight-filled win against the Yankees Thursday.
“I don’t think it was a letdown,” said Verlander, who pitched another strong seven innings. “I think some guys are maybe a little sore today. I know I was sore, trying to pull (Aaron) Judge off Miggy. He’s a big boy.
“But it wasn’t a physical or emotional letdown, not at all.”
Third baseman Nick Castellanos was a late scratch. His left wrist was sore as a result of the fracas Thursday.
I wasn’t quite as fresh-bodied as I’d like to be, but I am not going to sit there and let my teammates get beat up while they are on the ground,” said Verlander, referencing Cabrera and Castellanos, who both were sucker-punched by Yankees' Gary Sanchez and Judge.
“That’s not going to happen. I don’t care when I’m pitching or what’s happening. If my teammates are out there in a precarious position, I’ll be out there with them.”
Verlander, sore or not, left a 2-2 tie after seven innings. He was at 104 pitches and his nemesis, White Sox slugger Jose Abreu, was coming up in the eighth. Abreu already homered and singled off him earlier in the game.
“Quite frankly, Ver doesn’t have a great track record against Abreu so I was going to try and avoid that matchup,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “Alex (Wilson) has a good track record against Abreu and Avi Garcia, so we went with Willie.”
Wilson, despite giving up a leadoff double to Tyler Saladino, worked a scoreless eighth, striking out Garcia with two on and nobody out.
But the White Sox struck quickly against Joe Jimenez in the ninth. Tim Anderson led off with a double and Yolmer Sanchez singled him home.
“We’ve got some young guys down there who are going to get an opportunity,” Ausmus said. “Joe got an opportunity tonight. He’s pitched in back end of games in the minor leagues. If we had the lead, Shane Greene would’ve been in there.
“But it was the bottom part of their order, so we gave Joe an opportunity to see what he can do.”
Jimenez's outing lasted four pitches. Anderson hit a 96-mph fastball and Sanchez an 0-2 change-up.
“I tried to make my pitches,” Jimenez said through interpreter Bryan Almonte. “I knew (Sanchez) was looking for a fastball. I was throwing every pitch I wanted to throw. I threw the ball down in the zone. I felt like I could get him out down there.
“He dug it out and got a hit. It was a good at-bat for him.”
It was another well-pitched but empty outing for Verlander.
“It’s the life of a starting pitcher,” he said. “Sometimes you don’t win. But the ultimate goal is to go deep in the game, keep your team in the game and keep runs to a minimum. I was able to do that tonight. It just wasn’t quite enough.”
Verlander gave up two runs and six hits with eight strikeouts in seven innings. In the month of April, he’s allowed 10 runs in 36 innings with 41 strikeouts. He has a 2.38 ERA and 75 strikeouts in his last 10 starts covering 68 innings.
His fastball was electric. He was throwing 97 and 98 mph in the seventh inning. He got 15 called strikes with the fastball.
“He’s proven me wrong,” Ausmus said. “I didn’t think his velocity would get back up to where it was, but he can reach back and get 97, 98 – it’s impressive. He’s a little bit of a freak of nature in that sense.
“He’s really been one of just a handful of guys you see over the course of their careers who hold their velocity.”
Verlander gave up a first-inning home run to Abreu. And then put up a string of zeros from the second through the fifth, allowing only one hit with six strikeouts.
But in the sixth inning, Abreu singled with one out and went to second on a wild pitch. Garcia then slapped a 3-2 fastball into center field to score Abreu and tie the game at 2.
He was bailed out in the seventh by his defense. With Sanchez on second and one out, Adam Engel was safe at first when Cabrera got his feet tangled and didn’t touch first base.
In a tie game, with runners on the corners, Verlander got Alen Hanson to foul out to third baseman Dixon Machado. Then, with one strike on Saladino, Engel broke for second.
Catcher James McCann fired to second baseman Ian Kinsler, who was well in front of the base anticipating Sanchez trying to steal home, which he was. Kinsler’s throw was in plenty of time. McCann, though, was run into hard by Sanchez and did well to hang on to the throw.
“That’s a play we work on in spring training, but I don’t think we’ve seen in six months,” Verlander said. “But when you have (shortstop Jose) Iglesias and Kinsler up the middle and Mac behind the play, they’re going to make that play every time.”
The Tigers’ offense was stymied by right-hander Miguel Gonzalez. He came into the game having allowed just two runs over his last 22 innings, and he blanked the Tigers on two hits through four innings.
In the fifth, Victor Martinez, who had three hits, led off with a single. With one out, Andrew Romine dropped one off the chalk line in left field that bounced into the stands for a ground rule double.
Then, hot-hitting Iglesias blooped a two-run single to put the Tigers ahead. It was Iglesias’ eighth hit in his last 11 at-bats, which included three doubles, a home run and seven RBIs.
But that was the extent of the Tigers offense. Gonzalez went eight innings, allowed seven hits and struck out nine. Only three Tigers reached second base off Gonzalez in the game.