Justin Verlander walked off the mound, beaten and battered by the Cleveland Indians once again, this time unlike any of the previous 331 times he had walked off the mound.
It was on this day in which the Detroit Tigers appeared to hit rock-bottom this season, the loudest thud heard when Verlander could not get out of the fourth inning.
It was there for the taking — a series win over the first-place Indians, some good vibes heading into an off-day before the Fourth of July — but once again, Verlander’s arch nemesis took it to him.
The Tigers were thrashed by Cleveland, looking nowhere near armed to play on the same field as them, let alone being in the conversation of American League Central contention. Verlander snapped a lengthy streak in the loss, failing to record a strikeout and their offense did nothing — when it mattered — for the second straight game in an 11-8 loss at Comerica Park today.
“It’s definitely a lost opportunity,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “There’s no question about that. But at this point, we can’t do anything about it.”
It has become crystal clear the Tigers don’t have what it takes to even tease the possibility of a mid-summer run and so Verlander’s second-worst performance of the season carried double-barreled dejection: With only a handful of starts left before the July 31 trade deadline, certainly pitching in front of interested scouts, he looked the part of a pitcher that might not be worth the kind of haul the Tigers will be looking for in potentially trading the franchise player.
“First inning, fell behind a couple of guys, 3-0,” Verlander said. “After that, I just got my butt kicked.”
The fireworks began with Lonnie Chisenhall, who tagged Verlander for a two-run shot in the top of the second inning. It was the third career home run for Chisenhall against Verlander. The next inning, Jose Ramirez tagged Verlander for a solo shot and Carlos Santana drove in another run on an RBI double.
The veteran right-hander’s day would end the next inning, after a walk, two more hits and Ramirez’s second home run of the game, a three-run shot to rightfield.
“Sometimes, they just hit good pitches,” Verlander said. “Go back and look at it. It was like the well-executed pitches got fouled off, the mistake pitches got hit, even a couple good ones got hit. Sometimes you’re the bug, sometimes you’re the windshield.”
Said Ausmus: “Not a Verlander-esque outing. Just gotta keep grinding away.”
It marked the first time since May 4, 2007 in which Verlander did not record a strikeout, a streak of 331 starts which was the longest active streak in baseball and tied with Curt Schilling for the sixth-longest all-time.
In 14 1/3 innings against the Indians this season, he has allowed 18 runs.
“It seems like every pitcher has a team that kind of has their number,” Ausmus said. “Just like every hitter has a pitcher that has their number.”
Asked if the Indians were in his head, Verlander said, “No.”
The Tigers scored once in the bottom of the third inning when J.D. Martinez hit an RBI double against Mike Clevinger, who walked three batters in the first inning but recovered to pitch six innings, allowing two hits and striking out seven.
They scored six times in the bottom of the ninth inning to make it interesting. James McCann hit a three-run home run, his ninth of the season, and Nick Castellanos hit a two-run shot, his 10th of the season.
“The one upside for the loss was the finish for us,” Ausmus said. “The guys fought back and they didn’t quit.”
With the loss, the Tigers fall to 36-45 at the halfway point, their worst record through 81 games since 2003 when they were 20-61. They stand eight games behind the Indians in the American League Central Division.
“Just one of those days,” Verlander said.
“There’s a whole bunch of feelings when you don’t pitch well,” Verlander said. “You want to pitch well for your team, you want to pitch well for yourself, you want to pitch well for everybody.”
“Just one of those days,” he said.