Justin Verlander was feeling great coming into Sunday’s game. Being the big-time, dominant starter that he is, and going up against an atrocious Astros’ lineup that strikes out more than any, Verlander thought it would be no problem to mosey into Minute Maid Park and mow them down. I’m sure he felt that 15 strikeouts and a perfect game was a reasonable expectation for this start. Little did he know that Los Astros had a plan for him on Cinco De Mayo.
Verlander could not even get out of the first inning without ruining his perfect game-bid by allowing a walk and throwing 26 pitches. He was spotted with a two run lead in the first, and then could only manage to strikeout two Astros’ hitters in that inning. After Astros’ starting pitcher Philip Humber took his time in the top of the second inning (allowing five more runs), Verlander gave up an absolute bullet from Carlos Corporan that went directly to Tigers’ first baseman Prince Fielder. Verlander would be able to sneak out of trouble in the second with strikeouts of Brandon Laird and Rick Ankiel (who strikes out in half of his at-bats anyway).
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Justin Verlander’s third inning was an even bigger embarrassment as Ronny Cedeno, Marwin Gonzalez and Robbie Grossman sprayed ground balls all over the infield. Verlander could not even record one strikeout. The fourth inning did not get off to a good start either as Fernando Martinez started things off with a rocket to medium left field. Left fielder Andy Dirks (Who homered in the top of the inning) was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time and make the catch. Verlander would then strikeout Jason Castro on three questionable pitches, show his wild side with a walk of Carlos Pena, and manage to dodge another bullet with the Carlos Corporan strikeout.
Up 8-0 to start off the fifth, Humber was relieved of his duties and Erik Bedard came in and induced three weak ground balls to short and second. Verlander had luck on his side again in the bottom of the inning when Miguel Cabrera made a tremendous play at third to rob Brandon Laird of a hit. Verlander failed to strikeout Rick Ankiel as he drilled one to center (Ha!) and then sneaked three quick ones by Ronny Cedeno to end the Astros’ rally.
Somehow Verlander had his no-hitter in tact in the sixth inning but should have had that lost on the first pitch of the inning. Marwin Gonzalez led off the inning with a sharp ground ball to the right side and reached on what the Official Scorer mistakenly called an error on Prince Fielder. Robbie Grossman followed that up with a liner that looked like it was shot out of a cannon. That shot nearly took off Fielder’s right foot, but he was lucky enough to get his glove down, make the snag (with his eyes closed from fear) and fall on first base before Gonzalez could get back. Fernando Martinez followed that ordeal with a strikeout, but I’m pretty sure he forgot his bat in the dugout, so Verlander really should not get credit for that one.
It was obvious that the Astros had gotten to Verlander by the start of the seventh inning, as his manager, Jim Leyland, had to convince him to limp back out to the mound. Home plate umpire Tim Welke sympathized with Verlander and gave him some borderline pitches to strikeout Jason Castro to lead off the inning. Then the coup de gras came and Verlander was put out of his misery. The two Carloses (Pena and Corporan) came up and drilled consecutive liners to the outfield for singles. His third career no-hitter would not take place in Houston on this day. After Leyland punished him by leaving him in to finish the inning (which he managed to do thanks to a web gem quality double play from his infielders), Verlander was forced to walk off the field with his head hung and endure the laughter of over 20,000 fans. He ended his day with only seven innings on 116 pitches, nine strikeouts and two (or three if you ask anyone but the Official Scorer) hits.
The Tigers were finally able to get on the board again in the eighth with an Omar Infante solo homer. The Astros bullpen gave them five strong innings and allowed just the one run. In fact, if you take away the first four innings, the Astros only lose this game 1-0. Hardly what you expect from the defending American League Champions! That should be enough to fire up the Astros going into the Angels series, and may send the Detroit Tigers into a tailspin as they head to D.C. to face the Nationals.
- The Astros were out-hit 13-4 and struckout 13 times.
- Tigers’ left fielder Andy Dirks was 4-4 with a walk and two RBI.
- Astros’ second baseman Jose Altuve was given his first day off of the year.