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A sometimes-irreverent look at Detroit's Boys of Summer, the Tigers, as they try to return to the top of the American League Central.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tigers lose 8-0 to M's, shut out for 11th time this season, the most since '08

DETROIT -- Mention 2008, and every Tigers fan cringes.

Those players who were here in that lost year do, too.

Certainly Justin Verlander, whose 2008 season remains the low point in his otherwise-stellar career.

That was the year the high-priced, high-powered Tigers were supposed to score 1,000 runs, as a modern-day Murderers’ Row. They finished with 821, and just 74 wins to go with it.

This year’s team has been far more successful in nearly everything -- except keeping itself from getting shut out.

The Seattle Mariners won 8-0 Wednesday, shutting out the Tigers for the second time this season, marking the 11th time the 2013 Tigers have been blanked, the most since ... you guessed it ... 2008.

That team was shut out 12 times, just as improbably as this one has been shut out 11 times.

“Well, it’s unbelievable. I think we went four times 1-0. That’s hard to do. Some of that is, probably overall, our lack of speed,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said last weekend.

“I know there was a game in Pittsburgh we got four hits in one inning, and didn’t score a run. So some of that’s who’s on the bases, and stuff like that. That’s some of it. Some of it is really good pitching. ... There’s been quite a few games where we got quite a few hits, and we didn’t score a whole lot of runs. Sometimes 11 hits and two runs, or something. That’s pretty uncommon.”

Four of those shutouts have come with Verlander on the mound, including one head-to-head matchup with Wednesday’s starter for the Mariners, Hisashi Iwakuma.

The two squared off on April 18, with Verlander striking out 12, but taking the 2-0 loss, when Iwakuma and two relievers shut out the Tigers for what was already the second time in the season’s first 15 games.

Iwakuma gave up three hits in six scoreless innings in that start, and matched the feat Wednesday, and more.

“He was really good. He’s an All-Star pitcher, he was terrific tonight. Ball moves all over the place, he can throw a lot of different pitches in any count at any time. Sneaky with the fastball with movement. He was really good,” Leyland said.

“This guy’s a very good pitcher. You gotta hand it to him.”

Despite the loss, the Tigers (88-64) still shaved one game off their magic number to eliminate Cleveland, dropping it to five when Kansas City beat the Indians, 7-2, Wednesday night.

Verlander’s pitch count began to run up in the second inning, when he walked the leadoff hitter, Justin Smoak, then gave up an RBI double to Michael Saunders, followed by an RBI single by Nick Franklin. He’d get a double play to get out of the inning, and strand two more runners aboard in the third, but had already run his pitch count up to 62.

“I think the walks hurt me. Seemed like every inning, before I came out, I was very erratic the first batter of the inning. And in that one inning, where they put up a couple hits in a row to score a couple runs, obviously a walk contributed to that. But I wasn’t really able to execute fastballs to my glove side. I tried to go in on both of those guys, and left it middle, middle-away. That play into obviously what they were trying to do at that point, because they both drove that ball to left-center. If I get that ball in, it might be a totally different situation,” said Verlander, who did still think the start was a continuation of the progression he’s been making recently.

“At that point, went into a pitch-conservation mode, because I knew I had a lot of pitches, and I wanted to go deep into the ballgame, give us a chance.”

After retiring 10 straight, Verlander gave up a home run to Smoak on his 105th pitch to make it 3-0 in the sixth. Smoak was the only baserunner allowed in the final 15 batters Verlander faced, as he got through seven innings, finishing with 124 pitches -- two shy of matching his season high.

“Smoak actually hit a really, really good pitch. I couldn’t have thrown any better pitch at that point, for what I was trying to do. I was trying to get them to put it into play and put it into play early,” Verlander said. “He just elevated it, and he’s got a lot of power, and it just went out.”

Phil Coke gave up a two-out RBI single to Smoak followed by an RBI double by Saunders in the eighth, making it 5-0. Coke left with the bases loaded.

“I’ll make this simple. Phil’s just not making good enough pitches to get big league hitters out right now. He’s hanging his breaking ball, he’s throwing the ball in the middle of the plate,” Leyland said. “I mean, it’s as simple as that. Certainly nobody’s upset with him. But that’s the simple fact. I’ll answer it that way and we’ll move on to the next question. He’s just not throwing good enough pitches to get big league hitters out right now.”

The Mariners scored two more when the Tigers botched a throw back to the plate after a wild pitch, as Al Alburquerque couldn’t handle the feed from catcher Alex Avila.

Luke Putkonen gave up a solo home run to Franklin Gutierrez in the ninth.

Despite keeping the Tigers off the scoreboard, Iwakuma would have struggles of his own, loading the bases twice in the first four innings, but wiggling out of both jams.

In the first, he intentionally walked Victor Martinez to pitch to Matt Tuiasosopo, and got the needed strikeout. Hernan Perez grounded into an inning-ending double play in the fourth.

Iwakuma threw eight scoreless innings for the win, allowing just four hits. His stats vs. the Tigers this season: 14 innings, no runs allowed, seven hits, eight strikeouts, three walks.

Danny Farquhar pitch the ninth to finish off the shutout.

“I don’t really care about that. We got beat and that’s all I’m interested in. I’m in tested in wins and losses. It doesn’t matter whether you get beat 2-1, 10-0 or whatever. When you get beat, you get beat,” Leyland said. “We’re in the business of trying to win games. That doesn’t really bother me. That guy that pitched tonight, he would shut out a lot of teams with the stuff he was featuring tonight.”


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