Before the game on Wednesday night against the Houston Astros Detroit Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire inclined his hand.
The Tigers were going to try some new things against former ace Justin Verlander, as much as they could to get him out of their game.
"It has never worked before," Gardenhire said ruthlessly.
The outcome of the game was apparently decided before it began: the Astros, one of the best baseball teams, took Verlander to the hill, with an offense that would surely wreak havoc on the left-handed rookie tandem of Gregory Soto and Nick. Ramírez, both at rest for three days.
The Tigers lost, 5-1, but the game was more competitive than that.
Verlander dominated the Tigers, allowing a run on two hits in seven innings, and the Astros (29-15) eliminated five runs. They took the lead in a home run by Alex Bregman on top of the first and never lost it.
With the victory, Verlander is 2-1 against the Tigers (18-23) in his career. He has won both of his starts at Comerica Park.
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Justin Verlander of the Houston Astros pitches against the Detroit Tigers during the first inning on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 at Comerica Park. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
The night of Verlander.
As expected, it was too much for the Tigers. The only run he allowed came in the third homer of JaCoby Jones of the season, a monstrous shot to the left in the fourth inning. Verlander struck out nine batters, walked two and reduced his ERA to 2.38. The Tigers only threatened once, when they loaded the bases with two outs in the fifth, but Niko Goodrum lined up at second base. Verlander is 2-1 against the Tigers.
For the first time, the Tigers used an "opener" in Wednesday night's game, with left-handed rookie Gregory Soto launching the first starts, followed by his left-handed teammate Nick Ramirez. The experiment, of necessity, given the lack of pitching openers of the Tigers, went well: against a strong lineup, Soto allowed two runs in two innings and Ramirez allowed two runs, one of them won, in four.
Gregory Soto of the Detroit Tigers pitches against the Houston Astros during the first inning on Wednesday, May 15, 2019 at Comerica Park. (Photo: Kirthmon F. Dozier, Detroit Free Press)
Change of impulse
With Verlander in control, the Tigers loaded the bases in fifth place after Josh Harrison tripled, followed by consecutive walks. With many of the best pitchers, teams have only one chance to break through. For the Tigers, this was theirs. But with two outs, Goodrum broke a line drive that Houston's second baseman, Aledmys Diaz, jumped to catch to finish the inning. In the next inning, shortstop Ronny Rodriguez and third baseman Jeimer Candelario made mistakes, which led to an extra run for the Astros.
After the game, Gardenhire announced that the Tigers were opting for Candelario for Triple-A Toledo. Candelario was hitting .192 in the season, with just nine extra-base hits in 146 at-bats. On Thursday, a movement will be announced in the corresponding list.