Justin Verlander was dealing today. He allowed only two hits and one run while striking out a season high 11 (following a 9 K effort in his last start vs. NY) to do something he rarely does, beat Cleveland.
Verlander has been awesome his last two starts. I wish I knew what the change is. It appeared he's been more aggressive in going after hitters; he had a ton of first-pitch strikes today. He also is pumping the fastball around 100 mph again.
The key today was pitching out of a bases-loaded jam (on a walk, double and intentional walk) in the seventh inning, with the score 1-1. Kelly Shopach popped to right, Matt LaPorta (making his MLB debut) got fooled with a hook after seeing a steady diet of 99 mph fastballs and Luis Valbuena grounded out.
Detroit appeared fired up by Verlander's effort. In the bottom of the seventh, Dane Sardinha led off with a double and scored when Curtis Granderson followed with a double. Granderson scored on a single by Magglio Ordonez.
Fernando Rodney tossed a 1-2-3 ninth for the save in the 3-1 win. The Tigers won the series, 2-1.
Now, to backtrack a moment. In the top of the seventh, LaPorta hit a foul ball just out of play on the first-base side. Miguel Cabrera hustled to make the catch and the ball tipped of the end of his glove. But in this case, it probably was a huge break he failed to make the catch. I think the runner scores from third if Cabrera makes the catch because he was falling over the railing. The commentators didn't bring up this point, so maybe I'm wrong, but I was relieved Cabrera missed the ball.
Brandon Inge homered for the Tigers and has reached base in every game this year. It's now the longest such streak for Detroit since Ron LeFlore's record 30 in 1976.
Entering today, the bottom of the Tigers' order (7-8-9) combined for 43 runs, 6 HR, and 42 RBI this season. The top of the order (1-2-3) combined for 40 runs, 10 HR, and 42 RBI. The bottom of the order had a .788 OPS; the AL average was .724.
Rodney has been generally good in the closer role so far. Entering today, he was allowing .167/.211/.333 in save situations. He only improved those stats this afternoon.