DETROIT (AP) – Jim Leyland would have loved to see Justin Verlander make a little more history on Saturday night.
In a way, though, he’s happy he didn’t.
Verlander allowed five runs in the first three innings, and ended up with a no-decision in Detroit’s 6-5 loss to the Baltimore Orioles. That ended his winning streak at 12 straight and meant that he won’t be the first 25-game winner in more than 20 years.
“Our guys were really trying to get back into the game and help Justin get that win, but in some ways, it is better that it is over,” Leyland said. “Now he doesn’t have to answer questions every day about the streak and he doesn’t have to answer questions about 25 wins. He can just get ready for his first start in the playoffs.”
Leyland was much happier about the way Verlander responded to the terrible start, retiring 13 of his last 14 batters.
“I honestly think he took a step forward in his career tonight,” Leyland said. “He wasn’t getting ahead of guys, and he got down by five runs, but he kept making adjustments and he finished with four shutout innings that gave us a chance to win.”
Verlander, who last lost on July 15, was bidding to become the first pitcher to win 13 starts in a row since Ellis Kinder of the Boston Red Sox in 1949, according to STATS LLC. The major league record of 21 was set by the Philadelphia Athletics’ Lefty Grove in 1931.
Verlander broke the previous Tigers record of wins in 11 straight starts, shared by Earl Whitehill (1930) and Hal Newhouser (1946).
“I haven’t been paying too much attention to the streak, except when people ask me about it,” he said. “So I’m not worried that it is gone, and I don’t care that I didn’t get the loss tonight. We lost. That’s all that matters.”
The Tigers also fell a game back of AL West champion Texas in the race for the league’s second seed.
The Orioles scored five times in the first three innings. Matt Angle started the game with a homer, J.J. Hardy hit a two-run single in Baltimore’s three-run second and Mark Reynolds hit his 37th homer in the third inning.
Verlander’s next start will come in Game 1 of the AL division series.
“I wasn’t executing my pitches, so I was falling behind guys and they were taking advantage,” he said. “Hopefully, I’m going to have five or six more starts this season, and this one won’t have mattered.”
With the game tied at 5, Chris Davis started the ninth with a single off Daniel Schlereth (2-2). Kyle Hudson ran for him and went from first to third on a wild pitch that struck out Robert Andino. Angle then laid down a perfect squeeze to put the Orioles in front.
Leyland and Orioles manager Buck Showalter that the winning play came down to one veteran manager outguessing the other one.
“Jimmy’s done that to me a million times, which is why he’s one of the best managers in the game,” Showalter said. “We were lucky. Very lucky.”
Leyland said he thought Showalter would try the squeeze, but didn’t know when.
“I suspected it might be coming but, obviously, I didn’t guess the right pitch,” he said.
For Angle, the day started with his first homer – he had never hit more than four in a minor-league season – then included a game-winning bunt and a shaving-cream pie in the face during a postgame interview.
“This was a good night, filled with a lot of firsts,” he said. “I’m going to remember this for a long time.”
Pedro Strop (2-1) picked up the win, and Kevin Gregg pitched the ninth for his 22nd save.
The Orioles almost had an even bigger start, but Austin Jackson made a spectacular over-the-shoulder basket catch to rob Adam Jones of extra bases in the second. After the game, Leyland compared it to the most famous catch in baseball history – the one made by Willie Mays in the 1954 World Series.
“If you are a baseball fan, you’ve been seeing a catch like that one for the last 50 or 60 years – Willie’s catch,” he said. “This one doesn’t take second place to that one or anything else. That was just an unbelievable catch.”
Jackson hit an RBI single in the third, and Detroit added two more in the fourth. Alex Avila drove in Miguel Cabrera with a groundout, and Jhonny Peralta added a sacrifice fly.
Cabrera hit his 28th homer in the sixth and Peralta added a tying RBI single against Strop in the eighth, giving Verlander a no-decision.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)