Tag:Justin Verlander
Posted on: October 21, 2011 4:48 pm
 

Players association announces award nominees

By C. Trent Rosecrans

For those who love to debate awards selections, the players association has announced its finalist for the Players Choice Awards, voted on by the players. The winners will be announced Nov. 3 on MLB Network.

So, because you can't wait, here are your nominees:

American League
Outstanding player: Jose Bautista (Blue Jays), Adrian Gonzalez (Red Sox), Curtis Granderson (Yankees)
Outstanding pitcher: James Shields (Rays), Justin Verlander (Tigers), Jered Weaver (Angels)
Outstanding rookie: Jeremy Hellickson (Rays), Eric Hosmer (Royals), Mark Trumbo (Angels)
Comeback player: Bartolo Colon (Yankees), Jacony Ellsbury (Red Sox), Casey Kotchman (Rays)

National League
Outstanding player: Ryan Braun (Brewers), Matt Kemp (Dodgers), Justin Upton (Diamondbacks)
Outstanding pitcher: Roy Halladay (Phillies), Ian Kennedy (Diamondbacks), Clayton Kershow (Dodgers)
Outstanding rookie: Freddie Freeman (Braves), Craig Kimbrel (Braves), Vance Worley (Phillies)
Comeback player: Lance Berkman (Cardinals), Jose Reyes (Mets), Ryan Vogelsong (Giants)

Overall
Player of the Year: Gonzalez, Granderson, Verlander
Man of the Year: Paul Konerko (White Sox), Adam Wainwright (Cardinals), Michael Young (Rangers)

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Posted on: October 16, 2011 12:09 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 1:22 am
 

ALCS Series Grades: Cruz, bullpen hot for Rangers



By Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers are headed to the World Series while the Tigers are headed back home now that the ALCS has concluded. Let's grade the series...

ANelson Cruz. A no-brainer.Cruz was a one-man wrecking machine the entire ALCS, and was voted the series MVP. Cruz became the first player in postseason history to hit two extra-inning home runs the same series. Both won games for the Rangers, with the first one making history as the only walkoff grand slam ever hit in October. His six home runs and 13 RBI both set LCS records. He already has 12 postseason home runs in his career over two seasons, which a franchise record and already in the top 15 all-time. Seriously, what more can you say about Cruz?

BThe Rangers bullpen. Seriously, how insane was the Rangers bullpen? Let's count the ways. The Rangers bullpen was responsible for all of the Rangers wins, allowing just four runs in 27 1/3 innings (1.32 ERA). The relievers -- headlined by Alexi Ogando (pictured) and Scott Feldman -- allowed just 21 baserunners while punching out 25 en route to becoming the fifth team with at least three wins in a LCS, the last being the 2003 Marlins. Only the 1997 Indians matched the Texas bullpen with four victories. And Ogando? He won his second game of the series in Game 6, the fifth reliever to win two games in an ALCS. He joins Sparky Lyle (1977), Tom Henke (1985), Gene Nelson (1988) and Francisco Rodriguez (2002).

CJustin Verlander. Look, Verlander had a regular season to remember and deserves to win the AL Cy Young, and it will probably be unanimous. But can anyone really look at Verlander's performance in the ALCS and say it was "good?" It wasn't bad, sure, but it certainly wasn't good. In Game 1, Verlander was far from top-notch before he was yanked thanks to weather problems. He lasted four innings and gave up three runs and two walks, striking out five. Then, in Game 5, Verlander tossed 133 pitches over 7 1/3 innings, giving up four runs including a two-run homer to Nelson Cruz, who would be his last hitter of the night. Verlander's pitches were still registering at 100 when he was done, true, and if he didn't come out for the eighth, he would have given up only two runs in seven innings. But that's not what happened. The fact is that he gave up four runs in 7 1/3 innings and that's not particularly great, especially given that it's often very difficult for a team to win in the postseason with their starter giving up four runs. Verlander did fine, but really no more than just fine. Hence this grade.

D
ALCS Coverage
Jim Leyland's managerial decisions. Leyland is a fantastic manager, but one has to wonder how this series would have looked if not for some curious decisions. In Game 4 alone, Leyland presided over two brutal baserunning decisions that, frankly, shouldn't have been made. In the 10th inning, Austin Jackson was on first base and chose to run on his own and was nabbed stealing. That was a colossal mistake, as it took the bat out of Miguel Cabrera's hands and took away a chance for Miggy to come through with a potential game-winning hit.

Speaking of Miggy, he was standing on third base in the 8th inning with a chance to cross the plate with the go-ahead run. But he was sent home on an outfield fly, with all the speed and agility of a freight train, and easily thrown out by Nelson Cruz. Leyland said if the throw was off-line, Cabrera still scores. Yes and no. If the throw was wildly off the mark, anyone could have scored ... but even a bounce, or a trajectory that took Napoli away from the plate still could have been good enough to nab Cabrera, who has zero speed. Yes, Cruz "sometimes" throws erratically. Yes, Alex Avila was up next. I don't care. Bad move.

Leyland also made some curious decisions with the lineup composition and didn't touch Wilson Betemit once the entire series, despite Betemit's bat being better than many who got playing time. And, frankly, he left Max Scherzer in the game far too long in Game 6. It was an elimination game. When something's not working, you move on fast.

FWeather. Rain was a constant presence during the ALCS, with two separate rain delays in Game 1 fouling up both Justin Verlander and C.J. Wilson's starts. Fortunately, however, the pitching rematch of Game 5 was able to be played without any delays. It was only the second game of the series that wasn't affected by rain, although the skies opened near the end of the game and became a deluge shortly after conclusion. Game 2 in Texas was postponed outright, while Game 4 in Detroit saw a pregame delay of just over two hours.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.


Posted on: October 16, 2011 12:07 am
Edited on: October 16, 2011 1:21 am
 

Eye on Photos: Rangers win ALCS over Tigers



By Matt Snyder


The Texas Rangers have taken down the Detroit Tigers in the ALCS, four games to two. They have now advanced to the World Series for the second straight season after having never gone before. Let's take a look at the series that was, in pictures.

Click on any photo below to enlarge.

Beautiful pre-game festivities for Game 1 in Texas. (Getty Images)
Tigers ace Justin Verlander discusses things with home plate umpire Tim Welke after allowing a Nelson Cruz home run. (Getty Images)
Game 1 had a few rain delays, which affected the work of both starting pitchers -- Verlander and C.J. Wilson. (Getty Images)
Neftali Feliz records the final out of Game 1. (Getty Images)
Game 2 was called well before the scheduled time due to expected inclement weather. Instead, it was sunny and the grounds crew even watered the field. (Getty Images)
Scott Feldman's effort out of the Texas bullpen in Game 2 was paramount to the Rangers victory. (Getty Images)
Wait, Nelson Cruz hit a home run? Really? (Getty Images)
Priceless shot of the Rangers' dugout immediately after the crack of the bat on Nelson Cruz's Game 2 walk-off grand slam. (Getty Images)
Cruz celebrates the big blow of the series as he approaches home plate. (Getty Images)
Doug Fister made sure this series wouldn't be a sweep with a huge effort in Game 3 for Detroit. (Getty Images)
Game 3 was rough for Adrian Beltre, as he just couldn't quit fouling the ball off himself. (Getty Images)
Close play, except the ball was jarred loose. (Getty Images)
Jose Valverde's subdued reaction -- for him -- to closing down Game 3. (Getty Images)
Yes, weather was a major player in this series. (Getty Images)
Believe it or not, this was a successful double-play turn by Ian Kinsler. (Getty Images)
Miguel Cabrera was thrown out by a country mile at home, and the ensuing collision with Mike Napoli was one of the more awkward ones we'll ever see. (Getty Images)
The biggest hit in Game 4? Why, a Nelson Cruz home run, of course. (Getty Images)
Miguel Cabrera and Adrian Beltre share a laugh after Cabrera's grounder hit third base and jumped over Beltre's head for a go-ahead RBI double in Game 5. (Getty Images)
After Cabrera's double, Victor Martinez tripled as Cruz couldn't come up with a diving catch. (Getty Images)
And then Delmon Young put the game out of reach with a two-run homer. Wanna find the ball? Look at the red ad in the scoreboard, specifically the letter "f." (Getty Images)
Cabrera's solo homer drew first blood for the Tigers in Game 6. (Getty Images)
But the Rangers would go on to put nine runs on the board in the third inning alone to break the game wide open. (Getty Images)
Max Scherzer had two good innings in Game 6 before falling apart in the third. (Getty Images)
Josh Hamilton sacrifices his body in order to make a spectacular catch, ending the top of the fifth inning of Game 7. (Getty Images)
And then the first play of the bottom of the fifth showed the difference in the two ballclubs Saturday night. (Getty Images)
Really? Again? That's six home runs and 13 RBI in the series for Cruz. (Getty Images)


ALCS Coverage
Up next for the Rangers: Either the Cardinals or Brewers in the World Series. Due to the American League's All-Star Game loss, the Rangers won't have home-field advantage, despite having a better regular-season record than St. Louis and being tied with Milwaukee. Of course, Rangers' ace C.J. Wilson was the losing pitcher in that All-Star Game by virtue of allowing a three-run home run to Milwaukee's Prince Fielder.

For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 15, 2011 11:41 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2011 2:06 am
 

Anatomy of a loss: How Detroit fell in ALCS

Cabrera, Napoli

AnatomyBy Evan Brunell


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Tigers had a massive implosion by Max Scherzer ruin Game 6, and as a result, their season is over as the Rangers advance to the World Series.

Let's take a look at the anatomy of the Tigers' series loss...

1. HEAD: Throughout the series, Detroit talked about taking it one game at a time, battling back from adversity, doing what it could to win each and every contest and not worrying about the past. All that is great, but actions speak louder than words, and the Tigers were horribly demoralized after Game 4's shocking extra-inning loss. In fact, after every loss, malaise filled the Tigers' clubhouse, and how could it not? The team gave its all and every game save the last was close. Every Tiger loss outside of Game 6 came either by a single run, or in extra innings. It was the narrowest of margins ... but they were losses all the same. That wears on you, and even winning Game 5 couldn't wash away all the stink once the series shifted back to Texas.

2. ARM: The Tigers couldn't ride their starting pitching to the promised land, despite entering the series with arguably three aces. Of course, there's Verlander fronting the rotation, but he didn't pitch like an ace in the ALCS. His start in Game 1 was cut short by rain, but by his own admission, his mechanics weren't quite right to start the game, and he ended up giving up three runs in four innings. People like to follow the narrative of Verlander as a great pitcher, but he still coughed up four runs total in 7 1/3 innings in Game 5. As for the other starting pitchers, Max Scherzer was fantastic in Game 2, but gave up a run in the seventh to allow the Rangers to tie, and eventually win, the game... and then, of course, he completely fell apart in Game 6. Doug Fister pitched brilliantly in Game 3, Detroit's first victory. In Game 4, Rick Porcello also turned in an incredible effort, but imploded at the wrong time. Even the bullpen was lacking aside from the heroics of Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde, and Valverde got burned in Game 4.

3. OBLIQUE: The Tigers had two instances of obliques hurting the team. First, Delmon Young was left off the ALCS roster entirely due to suffering an injured oblique in ALDS Game 5 against the Yankees. However, the Tigers lucked into Young improving to the point he was able to replace Magglio Ordonez on the roster when Ordonez needed to be removed due to a fractured ankle. Young played in Games 2, 4 and 5, but racked up a 0-for-9 streak, the most at-bats of any player in the series without a hit. He snapped that distinction with two pivotal homers in Game 5, but it proved to be too late for Detroit to win out in the series.

In addition, Victor Martinez hammered a crucial home run in Game 3 to pace the Tigers to victory, but pulled his oblique in the process. The next at-bat, he didn't even offer at one pitch or take swings in the on-deck circle, so you knew he was hurting. He looked stiff and sore in Game 4, so the Tigers lost two of their most important offensive pieces thanks to the oblique injury, which has ravaged baseball all season.


ALCS Coverage
4. LEGS: At this point, I feel guilty for bringing this up for what is probably the billionth time, but I'm still incredulous at the decisions that the Tigers made in Game 4 with regard to baserunning. There are two particular situations that got me. The first was in the bottom eighth after the Rangers tied the game. Miguel Cabrera is on third base with one out. Delmon Young lofts a fly ball to right field, inhabited by Nelson Cruz who is a fine fielder with a rifle for an arm. Cabrera was sent home and was out by a mile. After the game, Jim Leyland said that if the throw was off-line, Cabrera scores. That's a cop-out -- that throw would have had to be incredibly off-line to the point where anyone could have scored. Even a five-hopper would have been enough to tag Cabrera out. It was a dumb move. Period.

In the bottom of the 10th, Austin Jackson stood on first base with one out. Improbably, he opted to steal second base and was gunned down by Mike Napoli. Leyland said he supported the decision -- which Jackson made on his own -- but he better just be covering for his player because that was another bone-headed move. With the throw out, the Tigers removed a man on base and the chance for Miguel Cabrera to hit that inning. Instead, Miggy watched as Ryan Raburn made the third out, then the Rangers put up a four-spot in the top of the 11th.

5. FOOT: Losing Magglio Ordonez was a brutal blow for Detroit, when he re-fractured his surgically-repaired foot in Game 1. Already hobbled due to Young's injury, losing Ordonez severely depleted the Tigers' offense to the point where it was, frankly, a non-entity aside from Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez in the 3-4 spots. There's no telling what Ordonez could have done after hitting .365 after Aug. 12 in the regular season and .455 in the ALDS.

Related video: Tigers manager Jim Leyland speaks on the crushing Game 6 loss:



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Base photo: Wikipedia

Posted on: October 15, 2011 11:41 pm
Edited on: October 16, 2011 1:23 am
 

R.I.P.: 2011 Detroit Tigers

DetroitBy Evan Brunell

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Another season gone, another disappointment for 29 teams as one is immortalized forever. Let’s take a look back at 2011 and forward in Eye on Baseball’s R.I.P. series...

Team name: Detroit Tigers
Record: 95-67, 1st place AL Central. Lost ALCS to Rangers, 4 games to 2
Manager: Jim Leyland
Best hitter: Miguel Cabrera -- .344/.448/.586, 48 2B, 30 HR, 105 RBI
Best pitcher: Justin Verlander -- 24-5, 251 IP, 2.40 ERA, 57 BB, 250 K

2011 SEASON RECAP


ALCS Coverage
The Tigers were expected to be competitive, but not this competitive. Prior to the season, all the attention was on the Twins and White Sox. In the early going, the prognosticators looked to be correct as Detroit fell to a 12-15 record at the close of April. Things looked bleak on May 3 when the Tigers dropped to eight games behind first after running up a seven-game losing streak, the largest deficit the team would deal with all season. Following that, the light flipped on and Detroit ran up a 16-11 month, following it up with a 16-12 June that left the team 1/2 game behind Cleveland for first.

The second half of the season saw the Indians fade into obscurity and Detroit take its place behind the bat of Cabrera and arm of Verlander. Even more impressive was the fact Detroit was playing without a second baseman and third baseman much of the year. Carlos Guillen's injury troubles continued, while Brandon Inge found himself demoted to the minors at the end of July. Fortunately, the club weathered adversity, battled through a .500 July and then went bananas down the stretch, finishing with a 38-16 record in the final two months, including a 12-game winning streak from Sept. 2 to Sept. 14.

In the postseason, the Tigers needed the full five games of the ALDS to vanquish the Yankees, then entered into a pitched battle with the Rangers. While Texas walked away with a significant margin of victory by winning the ALCS four games to two, the series was much closer than it looked and if a few lucky bounces had gone Detroit's way, this R.I.P. wouldn't yet be here.

2012 AUDIT

Detroit is fairly settled for an attempt at a repeat division title next year. The pitching is, by and large, settled with a front four of Verlander, Doug Fister, Max Scherzer and Rick Porcello. The bullpen, likewise, is fairly stable and the offense will only be needing a second baseman and right fielder. Detroit has some good money coming off the books in Guillen's $13 million salary along with Magglio Ordonez's $10 million pact, so the club should be able to bring in an impact hitter.

FREE AGENTS

Wilson Betemit, 3B
Carlos Guillen, 2B
Magglio Ordonez, RF
Brad Penny, SP
Ramon Santiago, 2B
Jose Valverde, CL (team option: $9 million)
Joel Zumaya, RP

R.I.P. series
OFFSEASON FOCUS
  • Frankly, it would be a mistake for the Tigers to tender Delmon Young a contract. However, given the home run power he displayed for the team and how much the Tigers invested in him by making him the No. 3 hitter, he'll be back. So be it.
  • Re-sign Jose Valverde to a contract extension. The Tigers should be able to lock Valverde in for two or three more years at a lesser annual salary than the $9 million he would make on the team option. If Valverde balks, simply pick up the option. It's close enough to market value, plus it will only tie the team to him for one more year. Any time you have the chance to retain a strong pitcher for one year, don't you have to do it? Also bring back Zumaya on a make-good deal. Zoom-Zoom wants to stay and won't cost much given he's been a non-factor for quite some time now.
  • Sign Jamey Carroll to play second base. Ramon Santiago filled in ably all season, but Santiago is no one's idea of a starting second baseman. There isn't that much on the market, but Carroll would be a great fit as someone who could hit for a high average and generate some speed on the basepaths. Detroit finished last in the AL in stolen bases in 2011, and they need to make their offense more dynamic.
  • With all the money saved so far -- after all these moves, plus arbitration raises, the Tigers should be looking at roughty $20 million free to spend -- Detroit should bring in some thump into the lineup. It just so happens there's a vacant spot in right field opening up, and Michael Cuddyer would look nice in that role. (Yeah, yeah, Brennan Boesch. Not sold.) If Cuddyer heads elsewhere, the Tigers should take a look at Carlos Beltran. If that's a no go -- and I expect Beltran wouldn't care for playing in Detroit unless the Tigers ponied up more money than anyone else -- signing David DeJesus to a low-risk, high-reward deal makes sense. There's always the trade market too.
For more baseball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeonBaseball on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed.
Posted on: October 15, 2011 1:38 am
Edited on: October 15, 2011 1:41 am
 

Errors didn't help, but neither did Greinke

Zack Greinke

By C. Trent Rosecrans

ST. LOUIS -- Among qualified starters during the regular season, no pitcher struck out more batters per nine innings than Zack Greinke, and just 11 pitchers had a higher percentage of swings and misses on their pitches than Greinke's 10.6 percent.

To say Greinke wasn't that pitcher in Game 5 of the NLCS on Friday is an understatement. He didn't record a strikeout and of the 89 pitches he threw, there were just two swings and misses by Cardinals batters. So instead of his season percentage that was better than Justin Verlander (10.2 percent), his 2.25 swing-and-miss percentage was closer to Elih Villanueva of the Marlins, and nearly a full percent less than the swing-and-miss rate recorded by Scott Kazmir. So as much as his fielders struggled behind him in the Cardinals' 7-1 victory, Greinke can shoulder plenty of blame himself.

NLCS Coverage

"Wasn’t a great game pitched for me," Greinke said afterward. "Made several mistakes that ended up costing us. They pitched a good game. Tough loss. Definitely could have done better and made it a better game. I made a couple tough mistakes."

Both of the swinging strikes came on fastballs, while his best out pitch, his slider went for 11 strikes, but none of them swings and misses. 

No batter swung and missed at a pitch until Greinke's 68th pitch of the night, a 1-1 fastball to Matt Holliday in the fifth inning. Holliday hit his next pitch to shortstop for a hit. Greinke's next swinging strike was on his 88th pitch of the night, a 1-1 fastball to Albert Pujols in the sixth. Pujols blasted Greinke's next pitch into left for an RBI single.

"I don't think his slider was biting as it usually was tonight," Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy said. "He had velocity, but his movement wasn't there and it usually is on his slider. His best pitches are his slider and his fastball, and if his slider's not working, it takes away from his fastball."

Greinke's fastball averaged 93 mph and had a high of 95.4 mph, but the Cardinals weren't missing them. He still threw 18 sliders (20 percent), close to his usual percentage.

"The slider wasn’t very sharp at all today," Greinke said. "I kind of wanted to get it up a little more and get some weak contact with it. I did that pretty good. But whenever I needed to get it down, I had some trouble doing that. The last pitch to Albert (Pujols) was a hanging slider, and if I get it down, it’s probably a strikeout. You could say that several other times, where if I’d have gotten the slider down better, there’d have been better results."

In all, he allowed seven hits in 5 2/3 innings and five runs, although just two were earned. He actually lowered his postseason ERA to a pedestrian 6.48 -- hardly the type of production expected from a former Cy Young-winner who demanded out of Kansas City so he could pitch in playoff games. Now three games into his playoff career, he's not shown himself to be the level of Chris Carpenter, Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee, the top-line pitchers who also have proven themselves under baseball's brightest lights. And make no mistake, there were those who wondered how Greinke would fare under the glare of the postseason. While it's not appeared to be a mental block, his lack of production in the postseason will be an issue and concern until he proves he can pitch on this stage.

He didn't have help on Friday -- Jerry Hairston Jr. missed a grounder by Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia that allowed two runs to score, Corey Hart missed a ball in right field that produced St. Louis' first run, Rickie Weeks missed a tough over-the-shoulder catch in the fourth before commttin an error in the fifth and Yuniesky Betancourt's error in the sixth aided the Cardinals' final run off of Greinke. That's all true, but it's also true that Molina's double and Garcia's grounder in the second were both hit very hard. That's because Greinke wasn't fooling anybody, and like it or not, his reputation in the postseason will be based more on what he's done in his three starts this October than anything he's done in the past.

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 7:43 pm
Edited on: October 13, 2011 9:06 pm
 

Tigers take four-run sixth to victory in Game 5

Verlander

By Evan Brunell


DETROIT -- The Tigers stunned the Rangers with an offensive explosion in the bottom of the sixth to force the series back to Texas, winning 7-5. The Rangers still lead the series, 3-2.

Hero: Justin Verlander didn't have a very Verlander-ish start, but he came up nails in a must-win game for Detroit. The righty gutted through 133 pitches over 7 1/3 innings, allowing eight hits and three walks. His final line was marred by a two-run homer in the eighth. He pitched out of trouble constantly, though, adding eight strikeouts to his ledger and getting the Tigers to the ninth inning. While Detroit was unable to go with Joaquin Benoit or Jose Valverde in relief, the Tigers were cushioned by a five-run lead once Ryan Raburn chipped in a solo homer in the seventh. (Oh, I suppose Delmon Young bashing two homers was pretty heroic, too.)


Goat
:
The Rangers could be celebrating right now, and they might have been if Ian Kinsler wasn't so hack-happy. Verlander looked like he was on the verge of collapse in the top of the sixth, loading the bases by allowing a single, double and four-pitch walk to Mitch Moreland. There's no question Verlander was on the ropes, but Kinsler allowed him to get away scot-free by busting the first pitch down to third for a weak grounder that turned into a double-play.

ALCS Coverage
Kinsler said the answer as to why he swung at the first pitch was simple. "I got a pitch I wanted to swing at," he said. "I'm looking for a fastball. I'm looking for a good pitch." And he hit it for a double-play.

Turning point: In the bottom of the sixth inning, Ryan Raburn opened the inning by rifling a single. Miguel Cabrera followed with what should have been a routine groundout down the line, but Adrian Beltre was playing behind the bag and watched the ball sail over his head after clipping off the base. Raburn came around to score the go-ahead run and things completely imploded from there.


It was over when... Delmon Young stepped to the plate with Detroit having taken a 4-2 lead. Young immediately drove a stake into the hearts of the Rangers by blasting his second homer of the game, a two-run shot that put Detroit ahead 6-2.

Next: After four straight days of games, both teams will get a breather with an off-day on Friday. Game 6 will be played at 8:05 p.m. ET on Saturday, with Max Scherzer going for Detroit. The Rangers will counter with lefty Derek Holland, who was bombed in Game 2.

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Posted on: October 13, 2011 5:23 pm
 

Deflated Tigers bounce back on Avila solo shot

Kinsler

By Evan Brunell


DETROIT -- Even with Justin Verlander pitching, Tigers fans didn't seem to believe their team could win out on and prevent a joyous celebration from the Rangers from happening on their field. There's no other explanation for the wide swaths of empty seats that were in place at the start of the game, and it appeared as if fans may have made the smart move early on.

Ian Kinsler (pictured) immediately deflated whatever optimism there was remaining in Motown when he smacked a double to lead off the game, eventually coming home on a Josh Hamilton fly ball to put Detroit in a 1-0 hole. After allowing a Michael Young double, Verlander immediately settled down by striking out three of the next eight batters, with three additional batters fouling out. That's a dominant performance, even if it took time to get started.

Then, Alex Avila, he of the 1-for-17 batting line in the ALCS and hampered severely by injury to the point where manager Jim Leyland pointed out Avila was as banged up, if not more, than anyone else on the team, stepped to the plate. And boom. Solo shot into left field to send the crowd into a tizzy and indicate that maybe, just maybe, there was plenty of fight left in the Tigers squad after all.

Through three innings, Verlander and Wilson have identical pitching lines. Each has tossed three innings, allowed two hits and a run and struck out three while issuing no free passes.

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