Inside Pitch: One More Game to Play
Verlander led the Tigers to the win Sunday
Verlander led the Tigers to the win Sunday
Sports Xchange MLB Reports
Posted Oct 5, 2009
Paul Wezner headshot


162 games have come and gone, but the Tigers still have one more to play to determinte their fate. Plus, should the Tigers have handled the pitching staff any differently this past weekend?

INSIDE PITCH

Manager Jim Leyland figures blowing up your house is a bad idea.

Which is why, he said Sunday, neither Rick Porcello nor Justin Verlander started Saturday on short rest.

The choices for Saturday night's game against the Chicago White Sox, with Detroit needing wins both Saturday and Sunday to clinch an outright AL Central crown, boiled down to three. All three options came about because Detroit's Sept. 28 game against Minnesota was rained out.

Leyland could start the originally scheduled pitcher, the rookie Porcello, but on one less day than the normal four days' rest. Or he could have selected Verlander on short rest, allowing him to pitch Porcello on Sunday with his usual rest.

Or he could go a different direction altogether and select someone completely different. That was the option he went with, choosing rookie Alfredo Figaro, who didn't even last two innings in a game Detroit lost, 5-1, rather quietly.

"You're talking about two golden arms for a long period of time," Leyland said Sunday after Detroit did its part to qualify for a one-game playoff at Minnesota on Tuesday night. "No way at my expense was there any way I was going to take a chance. No way I could justify that. I'm not going to have that on my name."

Porcello was Leyland's choice to pitch the playoff game in Minnesota. Which means Edwin Jackson would be the Game 1 starter of a series in New York if Detroit qualifies to play the Yankees by beating the Twins.

"Just to show you how smart he (Porcello) is," Leyland said, "he wanted to pitch out of the bullpen the last two days. Justin wanted to come back on three days (rest). That's the kind of guys they are.

"We had plenty of chances to wrap it up. I'm sure we'll go up there and not many people will give us a chance. But that's OK. That's why you play the games."

TIGERS 5, WHITE SOX 3: LF Ryan Raburn hit two home runs and RF Magglio Ordonez added one Sunday to help Detroit do its part to qualify for a one-game playoff Tuesday at Minnesota for the AL Central title and a berth in the postseason. RHP Justin Verlander checked Chicago on two hits over seven innings, facing just one over the minimum, before allowing three runs on four straight one-out hits in the eighth. RHP Fernando Rodney got the final four outs for his 37th save in 38 chances. DH Carlos Guillen drew a bases-loaded walk in the first to get Detroit off to a 1-0 start and C Gerald Laird beat out a bunt single in advance of Raburn's first home run of the game. Ordonez opened the fifth with his eighth home run and Raburn added his 16th of the season in the sixth.

NOTES, QUOTES

--RHP Justin Verlander reached a career best Sunday with his 19th victory, checking Chicago on two hits over the first seven shutout innings before wobbling in the eighth. Verlander came out with his fastball flashing at 95-96 mph in the first inning and also had the same excellent curve ball he was using in his last start, a win against Minnesota. Verlander struck out five and ended with a major league best 269 strikeouts. He gave up four straight hits good for three runs with one out in the eighth before getting the second out. He was relieved after walking his second batter of the game, and CF Curtis Granderson made an excellent running, diving catch coming in on the ball for the third out. "If he doesn't make that catch, who knows what happens?" Verlander said. "When I came in (to the clubhouse) I said to 'Bondo' (RHP Jeremy Bonderman), 'That was fun. You can't ask for much more than this.'" Verlander's turn would come up in the second game should Detroit qualify for the playoffs.

--RF Magglio Ordonez recovered nicely from a midseason slump, but he didn't handle criticism too well. Ordonez had four straight hits Sunday including his first home run since Aug. 16, but before the game he dumped a bundle of newspapers in a trash can. The paper had a picture of Ordonez missing a fly ball in right when he tried to make a sliding catch coming in on the ball. Ordonez has not had much contact with the media since being benched in June when his batting average, currently at .309, was sinking toward the .220 mark. His one-out double in the first set up a bases-loaded walk for the Tigers' first run, and his eighth home run of the season made it 4-0 in the fifth. He entered the game 11-for-20 lifetime against Chicago LHP John Danks and had a double, single and home run off him his first three times up.

BY THE NUMBERS: 269 -- Batters struck out by RHP Justin Verlander this season to lead the major leagues in strikeouts. He was the first Tiger to lead the majors in strikeouts since LHP Mickey Lolich fanned 308 in 1971.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "If we can't win, shame on us. That's the way it is." -- Manager Jim Leyland prior to Saturday's game against Chicago, which Detroit lost to see a lead that had stood at three games on Thursday morning shrivel down to a tie.

ROSTER REPORT

--LF Ryan Raburn hit two home runs Sunday to help power Detroit to a victory that kept it tied with Minnesota after the 162nd game of the regular season. Raburn slammed the second of two straight changeups for a two-run home run in the second inning, giving Detroit a 3-0 lead, and he hit his 16th of the season with two out in the sixth off a high, flat breaking ball. Raburn has hit 10 of his home runs since the All-Star break.

--RHP Rick Porcello draws the start for Tuesday's one-game playoff at Minnesota for the right to represent the AL Central in the postseason. "He's not going to be scared," manager Jim Leyland said. "That's a good thing. How he'll do, I don't know. But I expect he'll do very well. It will be a tremendous experience for him because he's obviously going to pitch in the toughest place he's ever pitched in in his life with the most at stake."

--C Gerald Laird threw out his 40th baserunner of the season Sunday and contributed two hits on offense as well. It was Laird beating out a drag bunt for a single leading off the second inning that enabled leadoff man LF Ryan Raburn to hit a two-run home run following a sacrifice bunt. Laird's throwout of 2B Brent Lillibridge following a two-out walk ended the third inning and protected Detroit's 3-0 lead. Laird also singled to open the eighth.

--RHP Fernando Rodney recorded his 37th save in 38 chances Sunday, getting the last four outs of Detroit's 5-3 victory over the Chicago White Sox. Rodney had only been asked to get one other four-out save this season. He came in with runners on first and second with two out in the eighth and got LF Carlos Quentin to hit a fly ball to shallow center that CF Curtis Granderson made a diving catch on to end the inning. "That was a tremendous catch Curtis made," said RHP Justin Verlander, who won his 19th game of the season. "If he doesn't make that catch, who knows what happens?"

--DH Carlos Guillen got a rare starting assignment against a left-handed pitcher Sunday. Guillen only recently began batting against left-handed pitchers because soreness in his right shoulder would only permit him to bat left-handed. But once he began batting right-handed he started hitting so manager Jim Leyland figured he would be a better alternative Sunday than anybody else as the DH, especially with his switch-hitting ability allowing to turn around if the White Sox changed pitchers. Guillen drew a bases-loaded walk in the first for Detroit's first run and later singled.


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