J.A. Happ stifled the Tigers hitters for 7 1/3 innings and for some inexplicable reason, he was pulled from the game and the Tigers finally scored.
Scoring 2 runs in the bottom of the 8th to tie the contest and later win in 11 innings thanks to an odd decision by Blue Jays manager, John Farrell. The Tigers got the sweep and with the win and move up a half game in the AL Central Standings due to the White Sox being off.
Miguel Cabrera left in the second inning with a bum ankle and is listed as day to day but knowing him, he’ll probably DH for the weekend series then be back in the field next week. With Cabrera out the Tigers offense couldn’t do much but the little they put together against the Blue Jays bullpen was enough for a win and that’s all that matters.
Alex Avila was the key as he got a 1 out walk to start the two run rally in the 8th and had the game winning single in the 11th.
But back to what really got the Tigers the win: Justin Verlander. I take him for granted. I get angry when he doesn’t throw a no hitter. I am spoiled and admit it. We are lucky to be watching one of the most dominant right handed pitchers of the past few generations, a player going to the hall of fame that the next generation is going to think back to fondly. Yet I can’t help but bitch when he pitches.
One mistake. One pitch to Edwin Encarnacion (who for the longest time I refused to believe was not related to Juan Encarnacion) is all he did wrong today. Outside of that one pitch Verlander made the Blue Jays look like a bunch of career minor leaguers.
The numbers most writers and casual fans will see is his pedestrian 12-7 record and his very good 2.50 ERA. Dig slightly deeper for fans that look to a second level and he leads the league in innings pitched with 190 (on pace for 248, 2 less than last year) his WHIP is 1.00, slightly higher than last years .92. He is also on pace for 251 strike outs, 1 more than last year.
So, to dig just slightly deeper, his WAR is at 6 according to baseball-reference.com and should surpass last years 8.3 or at least tie it. His FIP (what his ERA would be if he had league average defense behind him) is 2.93, slightly better than last year’s 2.96 when he was the AL MVP and the AL Cy Young Winner.
So, is Justin Verlander as good as last year? No, he is not. He is better. Last year’s team did not need Justin Verlander as much as this years team does. The Tigers won the division by 15 games last year. Those numbers he put up were fantastic and worthy of the awards he got. But he’s been better this year.
Doug Fister has pitched well for the most part but has had two different trips to the DL. Anibal Sanchez and Drew Smyly are adequate at replacing Brad Penny. Rick Porcello is basically the same erratic up and down pitcher and Max Scherzer has pitched much better this year.
However the bull pen is much worse this year and has been losing the team games while Adam Dunn and the rest of the White Sox seem to forget that they suck and are actually winning games.
Justin Verlander has kept this team together through some tough stretches this year and has prevented a few losses from snowballing and has given an over used and poor bull pen some rest on quite a few occasions.
So, his numbers tell us that he is basically the same pitcher as last year when he was voted MVP, an award that almost always goes to a position player but his team has needed him more this year and he has done his part even if they have not.
Verlander will not win the MVP this year and I don’t even know if he will win the Cy Young, but I also don’t care that much at this point because this team needs him to pitch like he did yesterday if they stand any chance of winning the AL Central.