6 – The amount of runs scored by the Tigers.
3-28 – Tigers hitting with runners in scoring position.
1 – Tigers home runs.
102 – Miles per hour on Justin Verlander’s fastball on Thursday afternoon after throwing 115 pitches already.
3 – Saves by Chris Perez in as many days.
6 – Amount of games the Tigers now trail the 1st place Indians by.
“At some point, it’s not early anymore,” Verlander said in a post-game interview. “We’ve got to find our groove and we’ve got to find it quickly.”
When asked in a follow-up as to when the Tigers will need to start finding this groove, Verlander responded, “For me, (it’s) now.”
This frustration is a great thing to see from a leader like Verlander, one of the most competitive players in the majors. Because right now, the team needs it.
But the Tigers ace wasn’t the only pitcher to comment on the Tigers struggles of late. Cleveland closer Chris Perez, who has been one of the American League’s most reliable closers so far this season, channeled his inner Roy Hibbert, accusing the Tigers of merely having a few stars while the Indians boast a collection of hard-working players.
“You look over there and they’ve got Cabrera and Fielder and Verlander and Valverde,” Perez said, “That doesn’t win baseball games. Good teams win baseball games.”
Well that one hurt. Was there some extra emphasis on ‘good’ there? Maybe hanging up the quote in the locker-room could give the team that extra push?
In Wednesday’s game, while the game was scored 2-2, the Tigers had back-to-back innings with golden opportunities to blow the game open.
In the 7th, Ramon Santiago and Gerald Laird singled, then Andy Dirks – arguably the best Tigers hitter of late – took a walk to load up the bases for Miguel Cabrera. With the count 3-0, Cabby took a pitch that looked to be about 3 to 5 inches off the plate and started towards first before a strike was called. After Cabrera showed some frustration for the call, he hit a weak grounder to second base to end the inning.
And it was even worse in the 8th, when the Tigers first three hitters – Fielder, Young, and Bosch – all reached base, score still tied at 2. Peralta then commit the cardinal sin of striking out with a runner on third and less than two outs, and his at-bat was followed by Santiago’s groundball that forced Fielder out at home and Alex Avila’s pinch hit strikeout.
In the bottom of the 8th, the Indians tacked on two runs and Perez retired the Tigers in order to close things out.
In game three of the series, Verlander was absolutely on top of his game. Justin’s specialty for the last couple years has been his ability to rally the Tigers to victory following a loss or a losing streak. The Tigers needed him badly yesterday and he was up to the task, but the Tigers lineup couldn’t get the hits they needed.
In his 117-pitch effort, Verlander only really made one bad pitch, a fastball to Shin-Soo Choo to lead off the game. A steal and a bloop-single led to Cleveland’s second run. His final line: 8 innings (Complete Game), 6 hits, 2 earned runs, 1 walk, 7 strikeouts – not too bad, but he still falls to 5-2 on the season.
We’re going to find out soon if this team has the type of character necessary to make a playoff push, because if Verlander can’t inspire his team with both a dominant outing and words of frustration (paired with Perez's smack talk), then it just may not be in the cards for the Tigers this season. There’s still about 120 games left to play, but the wins aren’t going to come on their own and an early June matchup at home against Indians could really prove what type of Tigers team we’ll be seeing the rest of the way.