19 September 2012
You know you have a special pitcher on your hands when his final line reads 6 IP, 5 H, 0 ER, 3 BB, 5 SO and your response to his outing is “just didn’t quite have it today”. We’ve seen Justin Verlander truly struggle a few times lately (notably rough games versus Kansas City and Los Angeles), and while this certainly wasn’t that, it did seem like he had to labor his way to finish his six innings. The Oakland hitters didn’t record a large number of hits, nor did they draw a notable number of walks, but they did a good job of working the count and fouling off pitches to elevate his pitch count early in the game.
Had it been any other pitcher on the staff – save the recent (if healthy) version of Max Scherzer – we would have raved about his “gutty” outing, but it’s a disappointment when Verlander “only” lasts six innings while being unable to impose his will on the opposing batters. For 90% of the season we’ve been used to an automatic eight innings of zero-to-two run ball.
But I must suppose that even Justin Verlander can’t be a full-fledged cyborg, so one must accept a certain number of rough outings. I just vote that we see this type of laborious effort rather than the nine-runs allowed kind. Those kind somehow feel less fun.
But the story of the game wasn’t Justin Verlander (or his pursuit of a second consecutive Cy Young Award), it was again Miguel Cabrera. Cabrera blasted a solo homer in the 7th inning (that gave Detroit a 5-0 lead at the time) – his third homer in the last two days. The home run was utterly meaningless to the outcome of the game, but it was number 41 on the year which brings him within one of AL leader Josh Hamilton. Cabrera already leads the AL in batting average and RBI, so now the Triple Crown is a very real possibility.
The debate rages on around the internet about whether or not Cabrera would be able to pass (assumed) leader Mike Trout for the AL MVP award should he accomplish the rare Triple Crown feat – I would personally still vote for Trout – but not to be ignored is the fact that Cabrera is having one of the all-time great years (or stretch of years) in Tigers’ history. He’s truly a generational hitter (or, rather, an every-other generational). He’s the type of hitter that will get a statue in the Comerica Park concourse and a likeness cast and placed in a certain museum in Cooperstown. Absorbing the memories and appreciating what he’s doing at the plate is more important than a fleeting yearly award.
Anyway, the Tigers beat the Athletics 6-2 (they’ve now outscored them 18-4 in the two games) and the White Sox lost to the Royals 3-0, so the Tigers gain a game in the division race and now sit just two games back. That’s still a sizeable deficit with only 14 games left to play, but making up the difference is certainly not out of the realm of possibilities. Especially when considering the remaining schedules of each team (the Tiger’s having the easier road). Still, there’s little room left to breathe and each Detroit loss from here on out would be a big detriment to their chances. But they’ve shown the last two days that they’re not about to give up.
Matt Snyder writes about Baseball, Football, and College Basketball. He can be found online as the creator and editor of Forever Faithful, the editor of The Tigers Den, a contributor to Call To The Pen, and a contributor to SideLion Report. He can be reached on Twitter @snyder_matthew.