DETROIT – Justin Verlander’s run of 34 scoreless innings came to an end in the worst possible way.
After taking boxing-fail swings at Verlander’s fastball in his first two at-bats, Mike Napoli ultimately caught up to one in the seventh inning on a full count, launching it into left-center for a home run that ended up being the difference in the Red Sox’s 1-0 ALCS Game 3 win over the Tigers.
Before that at-bat, Napoli had stuck out twice (once on a slider and then on a fastball), and the combination had worked so well against Napoli all day that Verlander assumed things would work out the same way.
Until they didn’t.
“I felt like he hadn’t seen the fastball very well today, either, and he took those two sliders before that pitch,” Verlander said. “The second one I threw was a really good slider that he didn’t chase. So 3-2 there, and having faced him a couple of times already, I knew he wasn’t seeing the fastball that great. I decided to challenge him. I made a little bit of a mistake. It was a little bit up and over the middle. You have to give him credit.”
It was, by Tigers catcher Alex Avila’s estimation, perhaps Verlander’s only true mistake of the night.
He struck out 10, his fifth straight double-digit strikeout game going back to Sept. 23 against the Minnesota Twins, and the Tigers couldn’t help but think the dominant performance was squandered.
“It’s obvious,” said Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter. “Everybody, the fans are frustrated, we’re frustrated, coaching staff, everybody’s frustrated that we couldn’t get any runs support for JV after that pitching performance. Lackey pitched a great job himself. Yeah, it’s frustrating, but we’re not going to dwell on it. We’ve got to have amnesia.”
• A complete absence of production at the top of the order may force Tigers manager Jim Leyland to tinker with things.
Austin Jackson is 1 for 13 in the ALCS. With a walk in the eighth inning, Jackson reached base for the first time in 10 plate appearances. With Jackson going 3 for 30 overall in the postseason, Leyland said he might consider a change.
“The only thing you could think about would be possibly play [Don Kelly] in center field,” Leyland said. “I would think that would be the only move you could think about. Thought about that one time in the series.
“But I’m not really sure that’s the answer. I’ll have to think about that one, sleep on it tonight.”
• The lights at Comerica Park went out in the second inning after, as Major League Baseball standards and on-field operations senior vice president Joe Garagiola Jr. explained, an electrical sub-station went offline.
DTE Energy chief operating officer Steve Kurmas issued a statement on the power outage that cause a 17-minute delay.
“We’ve identified the cause of the disturbance and we worked with officials at Comerica Park to resolve the issue quickly,” said Kurmas. “We regret the interruption.”