Right-hander allows three runs over seven innings in loss to Indians
By Alejandro Zúñiga
DETROIT -- Right-hander Justin Verlander, manager Brad Ausmus and the Tigers' infield convened on the mound to discuss their strategy for when Francisco Lindor bunted, but the Indians' shortstop didn't follow the script.
Instead, Lindor laced the next pitch he saw into right-center field for a two-run triple and scored on a soft single moments later, the only damage Verlander allowed over seven innings during Detroit's 4-0 loss to Cleveland on Sunday afternoon at Comerica Park.
Despite taking the loss, Verlander's quality start was his sixth in a row and lowered his ERA to 1.78 over his last nine outings. The Tigers, though, are 4-5 in those games.
"It's nice to pitch the way I expected to pitch," Verlander said. "I don't want to say it's a sense of satisfaction. This is what I expected, whether anybody else believed me or not -- doesn't really matter. I did.
"It's kind of tough to talk about right now, because we just lost, but as a body of work, once I kind of got in a rhythm, it's been pretty darned good."
He looked like an ace again Sunday, holding the Indians hitless through 4 2/3 innings. Michael Martinez and Jason Kipnis reached to lead off the sixth, then came Lindor and the meeting on the mound, which occurred mid-at-bat after the Cleveland rookie fouled off a bunt attempt. With a rookie shortstop in Dixon Machado and utility infielder Andrew Romine making just his third start of the year at second base, Ausmus explained he was ensuring everyone was on the same page.
Indians manager Terry Francona, though, took advantage of the delay and communicated to Lindor that he should swing away. Verlander left a fastball over the plate, and Cleveland's rookie didn't miss.
"I thought he was bunting, threw him a fastball and he put it in the gap," Verlander said. "That's the difference in the ballgame right there."
Verlander recovered to toss a scoreless seventh to finish at 107 pitches, but Detroit's offense managed just two hits off Cleveland starter Cody Anderson and three total as they endured their seventh shutout of the year. It marked the 11th time this season Verlander has allowed three earned runs or fewer, but Detroit has won just four of those games.
"There always seems to be a guy on a staff on every team that has that kind of bad luck," Ausmus said. "Not really much you can do about it. If he continues to go out and pitch well, over the long haul, he'll rack up some more wins."
Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByAZuniga. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.