Detroit — Justin Verlander did not make himself available to the media Friday, but he was in the clubhouse clearing out his locker during the Tigers’ 3-2 loss to the Indians in the first of two games Friday.
“He’s got mixed emotions,” said manager Brad Ausmus, who spoke with Verlander, who Thursday night agreed to be traded to the Astros. “He grew up a Detroit Tiger, and from what he told me, it was an excruciatingly difficult decision. One that, even now, is very hard for him to swallow just because he has never worn another uniform in the Major Leagues.
“But I think he will be fine.”
As for his former teammates, well, the jury is still out on how they're going to be. While the front office is making moves for the future, the players left behind still have a month of games left to play — and they are not inconsequential to them.
“The expectations here are different now,” said catcher James McCann, who had three hits. “But the outlook of everything in here is still about showing up to win. Just because you don’t have the big names doesn’t mean you show up and just hand it over to the other team.”
The Tigers didn’t just hand over Game One of the double-header Friday.
Jay Bruce hit a one-out triple into the gap in right-center field off closer Shane Greene in the top of the ninth inning and scored on a single by Francisco Lindor, sending the Indians to their eighth straight win.
“A team gets challenged when they aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do or not putting forth the effort they need to put forth,” Ausmus said. “It was pretty clear today the effort was there.”
The Tigers loaded the bases in the bottom of the ninth off closer Cody Allen — singles by McCann and Jose Iglesias (three hits), and a two-out single by Alex Presley.
At that point, Indians manager Terry Francona called on side-arming right-hander Joe Smith to face Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera lined out to shortstop to end the game.
“He hit it right on the screws,” Ausmus said. “He hit three balls on the screws with nothing to show for it. That’s baseball.”
After being stymied for seven innings by Indians starter Carlos Carrasco, the Tigers came to bat in the eighth inning trailing 2-1 and facing Indians set-up man Bryan Shaw. Presley singled and went to third on a base hit by Nick Castellanos.
With two outs, Francona summoned Allen to face Mikie Mahtook. Mahtook topped a slow roller that shortstop Francisco Lindor couldn’t field cleanly. Infield hit. Tie game.
“We can only control what we can control,” said Tigers starter Matthew Boyd, who limited the Indians to a run over five innings. “We all have a job to do in here and that’s to win. Guys get taken out (by trades), you keep going at it. We can’t control what guys get taken out.
“It’s tough but you have to draw a line in the sand and step forward and say that’s all behind you. Just keep going forward and compete.”
Boyd has a chance to be one of the foundation pieces of the rebuilding plan. Acquired along with Daniel Norris for David Price in 2015, Boyd has battled inconsistency. But since simplifying his delivery before his last start, he’s been vastly more effective.
“I feel a lot better,” said Boyd, who allowed five hits and struck out five. “It is progress but I still need to work out a few kinks. I definitely feel better out there.”
He went to seven three-ball counts in five innings, which drove his pitch count up (98) and hastened his exit after five innings.
“He’s still working on cleaning up his delivery, but he got some strikeouts today, which was nice to see,” Ausmus said. “I would think he’d be expected to be in the starting rotation going forward, but he has to pitch well.
“I think he has the ability to be a big league starting pitcher.”
Boyd got a chance to say so-long to Verlander after his outing.
“He had a huge influence on me,” Boyd said. “Up until two days ago he was helping me. From Aug. 1, 2015 when I got here until today, he’s been a huge help. I am going to be grateful for the time I had with him.
“And I think it’s awesome he’s going to have a shot to go deep into the playoffs.”
Boyd left a 1-1 game to the bullpen.
Drew VerHagen was greeted in the top of the sixth by a long home run from Edwin Encarnacion, his 32nd, breaking the tie.
Joe Jimenez and Alex Wilson each pitched a scoreless inning to get the game to the ninth.
“There will be more players coming up and young players getting some opportunities,” Ausmus said. “But we need to see the effort. I don’t think it will be a problem, but there are going to be young players up here and we want to see that effort and the energy.”