Verlander's K's lead finale rout of Rangers
Granderson, Cabrera show lumber in Detroit power surge
ARLINGTON -- Adam Everett didn't need to wait for the question. The Tigers' 13-5 win Wednesday at Texas meant that much.
"Big," Everett blurted out.
For a team that had scored five runs total over the first two games of the series -- one against a rookie starter, the other against an emergency starter and a patchwork bullpen -- yes, it was.
Of course they pounced on a bad night for Scott Feldman and an evening when the Rangers bullpen was caught a little short. They weren't going to overlook that. And with 13 runners left on base, it still wasn't a great night for them.
"An OK game, not a nice game," said Curtis Granderson, who homered in each of his first two at-bats.
But the way they had struggled to find the big inning so many times over the past few weeks against pitchers of all varieties, it was a necessary game.
"That's exactly what we needed. We needed to come out and play up to our expectations and play up to our abilities," Everett said. "We hadn't done that in a long, long time. And [in support of] arguably our best pitcher. When you can do that, that's huge."
The combination of Justin Verlander and an ignited Detroit offense against Feldman meant a game in which the Tigers seemed to spend almost the entire first four innings at the plate. They expended 38 pitches out of Feldman in the top of the first inning, then watched Verlander retire the Rangers on 16 pitches in the bottom half. A 32-pitch third inning for the Tigers' offense preceded a 12-pitch bottom half.
If baseball had time of possession, the Detroit would've worn down Texas with it. The shutdown inning the Tigers couldn't find Tuesday came multiple times from Verlander a night later.
"I call them stop innings," Verlander said. "When your team goes out there and scores, you have the momentum. You want to go out there and get your guys back in the dugout as quick as possible. That's something that I always try to do: When our guys put up runs, get our guys back in the dugout and swinging again. I think that's how you get a lot of wins."
In the case of Verlander (12-5), it's how he moved into a tie for the Major League wins lead to go with his commanding American League strikeout lead. His 13 strikeouts tied a career high he set May 14 at Minnesota, but this time he didn't walk a batter in the process.
He wanted to help get his offense back onto the field. His hitters, meanwhile, wanted to give him a cushion on the scoreboard.
"Anytime you can do that for him and give him that type of support, you've got a great chance of winning that game," Everett said.
The Tigers scored more than three runs in just one inning, a seventh inning in which Miguel Cabrera's three-run homer put Detroit into double digits. More important, they scored in each of the first seven innings.
Granderson homered in each of the first two innings, including his 20th career leadoff home run to open it. Carlos Guillen added a two-run single in the second and a bases-loaded walk off former Tigers farmhand Guillermo Moscoso in the third. Marcus Thames hit a solo shot in the fourth. Cabrera doubled in Guillen in the fifth before his seventh-inning blast, both hits coming with runners in scoring position.
Only a Marlon Byrd catch in deep center field and an acrobatic play from Omar Vizquel late kept Cabrera from a five-hit game. He still fell just a triple shy of the cycle.
Before the game, Leyland talked with Cabrera to try to take some pressure off of him. The message was simple.
"Don't try to carry the team," Leyland said. "Just be yourself. Just have fun and play baseball. That's what he does. I don't need him to carry the team. I just want him to take advantage of his opportunities. If he does that, he'll be plenty good enough, and I think a lot of those things will fall in place."
Verlander's outing fell in line. He retired 12 of Texas' first 14 batters through four innings, striking out seven, before a Ryan Raburn error and two singles loaded the bases with one out in the fifth. Vizquel's single and Michael Young's two-run double brought the Rangers to 8-4 and put the potential tying run on deck.
After a first-pitch ball to David Murphy, Verlander fired three straight fastballs past him -- the first two at 98 mph, the last at 99. Six more fastballs at 96 mph or above finally finished off Byrd to end the threat.
"It's fun to watch him pitch when he's right," Leyland said.
On nights like this, it has to be fun. But given all that the Tigers have had to handle on the board, it had to be big.
"We can sleep a little better now," Everett said.
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.