By: Dan Dickerson
In one of the great examples of clutch pitching you will ever see, Justin Verlander struck out Alex Gordon with the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth to close out a thrilling 3-2 win for the Tigers over the Kansas City Royals. For the third straight start by Verlander, the Tigers went to the ninth with a two run lead. For the second straight start, Verlander was on the mound to begin the ninth. In his last start against Tampa, Verlander had thrown just 81 pitches through eight innings, but he ended up taking the loss – charged with four runs when the Rays rallied in the ninth. Against the Royals, Verlander had thrown 104 pitches through the first eight innings, and had hardly been in trouble since giving up a run in the first inning. But Billy Butler singled to start the ninth. With two outs, Humberto Quintero singled home the pinch-runner Jason Bourgeois to make it 3-2. A walk to Mitch Maier put two runners on – and prompted a visit from Tigers Manager Jim Leyland. Leyland had a quick word with Verlander – whose pitch count was at 125 – then headed back to the dugout. No sooner had he arrived than Verlander hit the next batter, the 9th-place hitter, Alicides Escobar. With the bases loaded, Gordon worked the count to 2-1. Like his last start, Verlander’s velocity was again in the upper 90s in the 9th – but he froze Gordon with a changeup on the inner half of the plate to get the count even at 2-2. With his next pitch, Verlander froze him again, this time with a 100MPH fastball on his 131st pitch of the night, and Verlander had his first win of the year.
All of the Tigers runs came on home runs – Austin Jackson crushed a Danny Duffy fastball into the fountain in left to start the game, then Brandon Inge hit a home run to CF with Peralta on second to give the Tigers are 3-1 lead in the fifth. Duffy was very good for the Royals: after a shaky start, he mixed an upper 90s fastball with a breaking ball and changeup very effectively most of the rest of the way, allowing three earned runs in six and two-thirds innings of work.
The Tigers are now 7-3, 2-2 on the road trip. Drew Smyly gets the start for the Tigers in the second game of this series. Bruce Chen starts for the Royals.
Listen below to Brandon Inge’s 2-run HR
Listen below to Justin Verlander getting the final out in the 9th with a 100 MPH fastball
Follow Dan Dickerson on Twitter @Dan_Dickerson