Justin Verlander averted a doubleheader and series sweep by shutting down the Red Sox in the second game of today's twinbill. Verlander shutout the powerful Red Sox for 7 2/3 innings allowing four hits and two walks. It was not a dominant strikeout performance by Verlander (just three of them) but there were not a lot of hard hit balls either. The patient Red Sox did force him to throw 132 pitches and he left after two were out in the eighth. Fortunately, Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde finished the job uneventfully.
The combined shutout gave the Tigers an MLB-leading eight shutouts on the season. They had only five all last year. Despite a couple of recent poor performances, their starting pitching has been quite good this month.
The Tigers lost the first game today when Valverde allowed a tie-breaking pinch-hit homer to David Ortiz in the ninth. The Tigers fell behind 3-0 after three innings when Andy Oliver struggled with his control in his season debut. Oliver settled down and the Tigers came back due, in part, to solo homers by Andy Dirks and Brennan Boesch.
Many fans, including myself, were critical of a managerial non-move in the bottom of the ninth. With the Tigers down 4-3 and hot-hitting Alex Avila on the bench, Jim Leyland allowed slumping Ryan Raburn to strike out to end the game. Perhaps, Leyland was hoping that Raburn would get on so he could pinch hit Avila for Brandon Inge giving Alex a chance to win the game. They needed a hit to extend the game though and I think Avila should have been in there.
The doubleheader split leaves the Tigers at 26-26, six games behind the Indians. With the Yankees and Red Sox out of the way, the Tigers have a relatively easy schedule the rest of the way. This should help them avoid their usual second-half swoon.