Verlander's gem wasted in loss to Twins
Right-hander overpowering, sets career high with 13 K's
MINNEAPOLIS -- Justin Verlander said he didn't know the Tigers had lost Wednesday night until he took a cab to the Metrodome with Curtis Granderson on Thursday morning. Manager Jim Leyland sent him back to the hotel early, he couldn't find the game on the hotel television and a desk clerk told him Detroit had won.
Verlander's dugout view of Thursday afternoon's seventh inning couldn't have been much less stunning.
"It's tough, because you're not a part of it anymore, obviously," Verlander said after the Twins finished off their three-game series sweep with six unanswered runs for a 6-5 victory. "Managers always talk about how it's probably more frustrating to manage than it is to play, because you have a part in the game. Once I'm out of the game, there's really nothing I can do about it. I'm just a fan."
When Verlander racked up his career-high 13th strikeout to fan Joe Crede leading off the seventh, the Tigers had a five-run lead with eight outs to go. By the time Zach Miner ended the inning, they were trailing by a run. The final two runs came from Crede, who had come back around to bat.
In between were five hits, three walks and four straight two-out baserunners that led to four runs. All the while, Verlander -- knocked out once a one-out single and a walk pushed his pitch count to 122 -- watched uncomfortably from the dugout.
"It was a tough thing to watch," Verlander said. "Obviously, the way things unfolded wasn't pretty, especially Crede with a little jam job. That's just the way the game is going the last few days."
That's the way so many Tigers game at the Metrodome have gone over the years. But it wasn't how Verlander's starts had been going.
"That's a shame to lose that game," Leyland said. "We have a good bullpen, and the bullpen didn't do the job."
Verlander won his previous three outings behind 23 innings of one-run ball with 31 strikeouts. His latest performance looked every bit as good, mixing an upper-90s fastball with a buckling curve to strike out 11 of Minnesota's first 18 hitters.
The downside to all those swings and misses was a pitch count that began with a 23-pitch opening inning to strike out the side and quickly soared into triple digits.
Back-to-back curveballs caught Justin Morneau to end the first. A 98-mph fastball overpowered Nick Punto to strand two runners in the second. Four straight Twins struck out in the fourth and fifth, including Crede on three pitches. Morneau foul-tipped a changeup for strike three in the sixth.
"Right now, he's got a no-score mentality look in his eyes," pitching coach Rick Knapp said. "He's got a killer instinct right now. He's not going to give up anything. He's going to get you out. He's got that look -- the look. There's not a way you can explain it, except that he's pitching angry."
Verlander needed all those zeroes to keep pace with Twins counterpart Scott Baker, who sent down Detroit's first 10 batters and entered the sixth with a one-hitter.
Back-to-back singles from Brandon Inge and Adam Everett, however, burst open Detroit's offense for a five-run sixth behind Ramon Santiago's RBI double and two-run singles from Magglio Ordonez and Clete Thomas.
Given his first lead of the night, Verlander retired the side in the bottom of the inning, then fanned Crede in the seventh. Had he retired Brian Buscher and Punto to end the inning, that probably would've been it. Instead, Buscher lined a 1-2 curveball back up the middle before a tiring Verlander lost Punto.
"You could see he was pretty much out of gas," Leyland said.
In came Bobby Seay to face Minnesota's five straight left-handed hitters. He retired only one, and Joe Mauer's out required a solid play from Santiago at second.
Once Jason Kubel doubled off Seay, the go-ahead run was on base.
"[My] command was just terrible today," a distraught Seay said. "I take full responsibility for today's loss."
The game-winning hit came after Seay left. Miner entered to pitch carefully to Michael Cuddyer, whose walk extended the inning for Crede. A 1-0 sinker was just high enough to loft into shallow center as Morneau and Kubel came around for Crede's eighth RBI of the series.
"I made my pitch, he hit it," Miner said. "You have to tip your cap. It stinks."
"Every pitcher is going to have to get big outs for us," Leyland said. "Some of them haven't been able to get them."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.