VerHagen's final last chance off to a rocky start, Mariners rout Tigers
Seattle — This probably won’t be Drew VerHagen’s last start this season. There just isn’t enough available starting pitching right now to shut him down.
But, in all probability, after eight seasons in the system, after being waived and re-signed the last two years, this is his final last chance with the Tigers.
And he's off to a dubious start.
"I'd be lying if I said it didn't feel like deja vu," VerHagen said. "But I am trying to keep a fresh mentality about this. I am just going to keep grinding and keep working hard."
After two scoreless innings, VerHagen was tagged for seven runs in the third and fourth innings and the Tigers were dusted by the Seattle Mariners, 10-2, Thursday night.
"The first two innings I was ahead in the count more," he said. "My stuff was good enough to compete today, for sure — good enough to do well."
VerHagen, who began the season in the Tigers bullpen before being released in May, worked his way back to the big leagues on the strength of 11 solid starts at Triple-A Toledo (4-2, 4.42 with 51 strikeouts in 53 innings).
“He’s done everything he was supposed to do,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said before the game. “When we let him go, we said if we can get him through waivers we’d love to have him back in the organization. He’s got stuff.
“It’s just about finding the strike zone and the mental side of facing hitters and getting it all back.”
The strike zone was elusive Thursday night and things blew up quickly.
In a five-run third inning, he walked two, gave up two singles, was hindered by an error by second baseman Niko Goodrum and gave up a thunderous grand-slam home run to Tim Beckham.
"We had a two-strike count and he'd just thrown a really good curve ball," catcher John Hicks said. "We were looking to throw the exact same one, but it hung and stayed in the middle of the plate."
VerHagen was kicking himself for the pitch selection.
"Probably the slider was the better of my two breaking balls," he said. "But I went with the curve ball and he squared it up."
Gardenhire was chafed by Goodrum's misplay. Gardenhire had spent a lot of time with the middle infielders during early batting practice going over situations just like that. If you are in-between on a double-play chance, be sure to get one sure out.
There were bases loaded and one out and Daniel Vogelbach hit a slow bouncer. Goodrum, as he tried to tag the runner going to second, fumbled the ball and everyone was safe.
"When you miss a play in the middle of it, it always turns into something like that," Gardenhire said. "Niko's just has to get an out there. We spent all afternoon going over that.
"If you want to get better, you need to understand that you can't turn two until you get one."
The first batter VerHagen faced in the fourth was veteran minor-leaguer Tim Lopes, making his first big-league start. VerHagen hit him flush in the side of the head with a 91-mph fastball. Lopes was stunned but stayed in the game.
VerHagen seemed shook up himself and quickly gave up an RBI triple to J.P. Crawford and an RBI double to Omar Narvaez.
"Those plays are scary," Hicks said. "You don't ever want to see anyone get hit in the head like that. I am sure that did rattle (VerHagen) a little bit, that's why Andy (pitching coach Rick Anderson) came out.
"And his whole message was, that's part of the game. We were trying to throw a fastball up and in and it got away from him."
VerHagen was done after four innings — seven runs (six earned), six hits, three walks and a hit batsman.
"Last year I came back up after going down to Toledo and I got crushed by the Yankees," he said. "And I ended up throwing well after that. I am going to shoot for that."
The Tigers are now:
►2-11 since the All-Star break.
►3-16 in July.
►8-36 since June 1.
►14-51 since May 8.
►And, for kicks, they have now lost 14 of their last 18 games played in Seattle and are 1-22 against the American League West going back to last season.
One Tigers player enjoys playing here, though. Hicks, who was released by the Mariners after the 2015 season, pounded his sixth homer of the year in the third inning — a 447-footer. He is now 18 for 44 (.409) against the Mariners with five doubles and three home runs.
"I told the clubhouse guy, I think the only guys left from when I was here are Kyle Seager and Felix (Hernandez)," Hicks said. "Still, any time you play against your former team, you want to do well."
The Tigers came away from a bases-loaded, no out chance in the fifth with just one run — that on a one-out single by Jeimer Candelario. Miguel Cabrera, 2 for 38 since July 12, ended the threat with a 6-4-3 double-play.
Kyle Seager hit the first pitch Blaine Hardy threw him in the fifth for a solo home run. It was the 10th home run allowed by Hardy in 40 2/3 innings. That ties his career-high set last season in 86 innings.
The Mariners scored two more off Trevor Rosenthal in the eighth — two walks and a two-run double by Daniel Vogelbach.