Verlander not sharp against Rangers
Tigers lose as Texas' Matthews hits for the cycle
DETROIT -- Remember Jim Leyland's old line that momentum is only as good as that day's starting pitcher? Well, Gary Matthews Jr. and the Rangers gave Leyland a chance to quote himself Wednesday.
"That's why in this business, it's so important that you don't get too excited one way or the other," Leyland said after the Tigers' 11-3 loss on Wednesday at Comerica Park. "Because here we are with a tremendous comeback win [Tuesday] night at home, you have a heckuva pitcher pitching for you the next night, and that's why I talk about no momentum in baseball."
The Tigers seemed poised to pounce on an opportunity to take back a game in the American League Central after the Twins lost in the afternoon, plus take their first series win since mid-August. Justin Verlander had allowed a lone run over 14 innings in his previous two starts, and Detroit's hitters seemingly rediscovered their power Tuesday night.
Instead, Matthews became the first player since 1997 to hit for the cycle against the Tigers, whose lead for an AL playoff spot cycled back to three games. And Detroit entered Thursday's off-day with the same size lead over Minnesota and Chicago that it had at the end of Monday's off-day. It's not a late-season charge, but with two fewer days left in the season, it's more like a four-corners offense.
"We'll just have to keep grinding it out," Leyland said. "The White Sox lose [Tuesday] night, and they win [Wednesday]. The Twins lose [Wednesday] and we lose [Wednesday]. This is going to go down to the end. We just have to win enough games."
The Tigers had the same amount of offense they used to pull out Tuesday's win. It was enough on Tuesday because Kenny Rogers and Fernando Rodney held the Rangers to one extra-base hit out of their 10 hits total. It wasn't enough on Wednesday because nine of Texas' 15 hits went for extra bases, including extra bases of all kinds for Matthews on a night when Verlander struggled for command.
Not only did Matthews become the first visiting player in Comerica Park history to hit for the cycle, he did it in natural progression. After leading off the game with a single, he doubled in Ian Kinsler to complete a two-out, second-inning rally of three straight hits to open the scoring. Two innings later, he followed up Kinsler's one-out double with another two-out RBI, this one a line-drive triple to the gap in right-center field.
Matthews needed just one pitch from Mike Maroth leading off the sixth for his homer, making him the first player to go for the cycle off the Tigers since then-Mariner Alex Rodriguez on June 5, 1997 at Tiger Stadium.
"He hit everything we threw," Leyland said. "That was the fastest cycle I think I've ever seen."
But then, Verlander wasn't happy with much of what he threw, and it resulted in his fastest exit since early April. His effectiveness over his past few starts wasn't as much about power as location, forcing opponents to hit his pitch on the ground. Just three of his 10 hits allowed Wednesday, and five of his 13 outs, were ground balls.
Even before his recent run, he wasn't giving up shots this hard. He had allowed seven extra-base hits over his previous four starts before yielding five Wednesday.
"There weren't very many real solid, sharp curveballs," Leyland said. "He wasn't very good tonight. That's about as much as you can say."
Verlander didn't argue that point, and he was about as concise.
"It was bad," he said. "I felt like I made one good pitch all day in to a lefty. Everything else ran back over the middle of the plate and up. Other than that, I felt like I could control away pretty good, but not up and down. I'd make a good pitch away, but it would still be up, and it's easier to hit."
The extra bases didn't end there. Once Michael Young hit a two-run homer in the eighth off Jason Grilli, the Tigers had allowed double-digit runs for the second time in three games. Carlos Lee completed the damage two batters later with his second homer of the game.
The decisive three-run fifth came after Detroit rallied to within a run in the bottom of the fourth. Sean Casey's opposite-field, two-run double to the left-field corner was his first extra-base hit since Aug. 23. Once Brandon Inge singled him in, the Tigers had the potential tying run at the plate before Kevin Millwood ended the threat with a Neifi Perez popout.
Millwood (15-10) beat the Tigers at Comerica Park for the second time in his past six starts, allowing three runs on seven hits over seven innings.
"I thought we swung the bats a little better tonight," Leyland said. "We just got beat up."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.