Sunday in Baltimore, Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander was on the mound for the first time since taking the loss in the All-Star game in Kansas City. He’s admitted to basically trying to blow the ball past the National League All-Star team Tuesday night, unsuccessfully. Against the Orioles, he became a pitcher again, winnings his tenth game of the year in a 4-0 Tigers win.
His mound opponent, Miguel Gonzalez, found a harder go of it in his second start than his first. Coming off a seven inning performance against the Angels in which he yielded just three hits and one run, Gonzalez gave up a home run to Austin Jackson leading off the game. Jhonny Paralta added a broken bat, RBI bloop hit, knocking in Brennan Boesch, who’d doubled, in the second.
Gonzalez then settled down and blanked Detroit until the sixth. With one out, he walked Prince Fielder. Boesch then picked up a bloop hit to center, sending Fielder to second. One out later, Alex Avila hit a grounder that just eluded the dive of second baseman Robert Andino. Fielder chugged home ahead of Nick Markakis’ throw, making it 3-0. Andino landed awkwardly on his left shoulder, and was pulled from the game. Gonzalez would follow him into the dugout one batter later, after he walked Ramon Santiago to load the bases with two outs.
Luis Ayala, who had struggled over his last three outings (4.2IP, 8H, 5ER, 10.71 ERA), came on to get the final out without any more damage.
Of course, this was well beyond all Verlander needed. The AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP gave up four hits over eight innings. He struck out eight and walked two. His toughest moments were in the very first inning. Jim Thome picked up an opposite field hit—his first of three hits on the day—with two outs. Verlander then walked fellow AL All-Star Adam Jones in an eight-pitch at bat, putting runners at first and second. Then Chirs Davis stepped in. He saw three pitches, and swung and missed each of them, for out number three.
The hometown fans were treated to the major league debut of local pitcher Steve Johnson. The son of former Orioles pitcher Dave Johnson entered to start the eighth, with the O’s down 3-0. He walked the first two hitters he faced, in Paralta and Avila. Santiago then sacrificed the pair up, putting runners on second and third with one out. Johnson was up to the task, though, fanning Don Kelly and Jackson to retire the side.
Johnson was touched up when Miguel Cabrera hit a very long home run to right-center off him in the ninth.
The Orioles now hit the road for four in Minneasota. The Twins are 36-52, which is the worst record in the American League. It’ll be Scott Diamond (7-3, 2.62) for the Twins, vs. Chris Tillman (1-0, 0.00) for the Orioles Monday night. Game time is 8:10.
- It wasn’t technically a quality start, but Gonzalez kept his team in the game. For starters not named Hammel or Chen, this was a rather refreshing way for a pitcher to lose.
- Though he was sent back to Norfolk after the game, it was nice to see Steve Johnson make his debut in front of the hometown fans. He was definitely nervous and threw a lot of pitches (47) to get through two innings. And, yes, he gave up a homer to Cabrera (which, for an Orioles pitcher is kind of a rite of passage). But ultimately, that was the only run he gave up, so he struggled well, and gave the fans something to cheer about.
- Luis Ayala was unscored upon for the first time in four games.
- Thome’s three hits was also good to see. Hopefully it bodes well for the road trip to two of the teams he used to play for: Minnesota and Cleveland.
- Verlander moved to 8-0 in his career against Baltimore.
- Miguel Cabrera, as he seems to always do, murdered Orioles pitching this series, going 7/15 with a walk, 4 runs scored, 13 total bases, a pair of homers and 2 RBIs.
- Andino will have an MRI in Baltimore Monday after X-rays on his shoulder were negative. Andino, as much as anyone on the team, has had an up and down year here in 2012. But, with Brian Roberts out, you don’t want to lose Robert Andino.