Power outage spoils Verlander's Game 3 gem
Right-hander strikes out 10 over eight, gives up seventh-inning HR
DETROIT -- The power outage only lasted only for a short time at Comerica Park, the product of a nearby substation going offline. It lasted well into Tuesday evening at the plate, the product of Justin Verlander and John Lackey.
It lasted just long enough for Mike Napoli to haunt the Tigers in the American League Championship Series for the second time in three years, this time in a different uniform. And with one big swing off one Verlander fastball in the seventh inning, he officially turned the switch on this series in Boston's favor.
The 1-0 Tigers loss in Game 3 puts them down in the best-of-seven series, two games to one, with Game 4 on Wednesday night (8 ET on FOX). They've lost the last two games -- despite brilliant performances from their two aces, Verlander and Max Scherzer -- for entirely different reasons. Two days after Detroit's bullpen let Scherzer down in Game 2, its offense was powerless along with the stadium lights against Lackey.
Now, after plating five runs in Game 2 and losing, the Tigers are back in their previous predicament, trying to figure out how to score runs in a series where they're scarce.
"I mean, it's frustrating," Prince Fielder said, "but that's part of it. Our team's done it to people. It can happen to us, too, so just gotta shake it off."
Only two entire postseasons in history featured multiple 1-0 games until this series. The Tigers have now played in three, including two in three games of this series. The only multi-run hit, David Ortiz's game-tying grand slam in Game 2, currently stands as the difference.
"I think you kind of expect that in this series," Verlander said. "It's going to be a battle for every single out, every single run, and it's two heavyweights going at it.
"If you can't appreciate this, you can't appreciate baseball."
Surprisingly, the Tigers' .231 average this postseason is the second-best mark of the four teams still alive. Their 23 runs, however, are the lowest total.
The common theme out of the Tigers' clubhouse after Game 3 was that they're not getting mistakes to hit, including Lackey's 6 2/3 shutout innings.
"If they throw a mistake, I hit it. If not, I won't," Fielder said. "It's that simple."
With Tigers nemesis Jake Peavy looming in Game 4, followed by Jon Lester in Game 5 trying to follow up his Game 1 gem, there might not be many mistakes to hit. If hitters can't capitalize, there might not be many games left.
Asked whether playoff offenses have to hit some pitches that pitchers execute, catcher Alex Avila said, "Absolutely. But in the playoffs, pitching is going to dominate. At this time of the year, a good pitcher that knows how to pitch will be able to shut down a good offense. I mean, it happens to every good offense. They're not scoring many runs either."
Tuesday's offensive blackout on both sides lasted well after the lights eventually warmed up and came back on, after a 17-minute delay in the middle of the second inning. The way both teams were swinging, they could've played the game in the dark for a while without much difference.
It lasted through a postseason-record-tying six consecutive strikeouts for Verlander, coinciding with four strikeouts in a row for Lackey. It thrived through the makings of another no-hitter bid by a Tigers starter, though Jonny Gomes' dribbler for an infield single with two outs in the fifth inning marked Boston's earliest hit of the series.
Asked if he pitched as well as he did in his AL Division Series win in Oakland, Verlander said, "I think the results speak more than what I can say. But just as far as execution and my mechanics and everything that I worked so hard to get to, I feel like I was right where I need to be."
The battle lasted long past two Tigers singles in the opening inning, and well after Jhonny Peralta's double leading off the fifth, thanks to Lackey's strikeout of Omar Infante with one out and Peralta on third.
It lasted after Napoli, 2-for-19 in the postseason before he stepped to the plate, homered off the same pitcher in the same park where he hit his first Major League home run seven years ago as an Anaheim Angel. Napoli, who went 7-for-24 with six runs scored for the Texas Rangers against Detroit in the 2011 ALCS, scored the first run off Verlander since Justin Smoak homered off him at Comerica Park on Sept. 18.
"He was really late on his fastball most of the game," Avila said. "That one just caught more of the middle of the plate."
Verlander had tossed 34 consecutive scoreless innings over five outings, but won only one of the games. Detroit's offense, meanwhile, scored in just three of those innings for him.
"I wouldn't say it's frustrating," said Verlander. "You know, I think you kind of expect that in this series."
A scoreless eighth inning kept Verlander in long enough for the Tigers to put up their best chance to break their blackout against the Red Sox bullpen, runners at the corners for the middle of the order.
With Austin Jackson 90 feet away as the potential tying run, having reached on a one-out walk and gone to third on Torii Hunter's single, all Miguel Cabrera needed was a well-struck ball against Junichi Tazawa. The Red Sox right-hander answered with a first-pitch strike, followed by three fastballs off the plate, drawing two more swings and misses from Cabrera.
"Gotta swing at better pitches," Cabrera said.
On came closer Koji Uehara for Fielder. With two foul tips and a swinging strike, the Red Sox escaped.
"That's why he's there," Fielder said. "He's very good. Just gotta wait and when he makes a mistake, gotta hit it. If not, you're probably out."
Cabrera went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts, failing to reach base in a postseason game for the first time as a Tiger and just the third time in his career, ending a 31-game, postseason-record streak. Uehara stayed on in the ninth and overcame a Victor Martinez leadoff single, inducing a Peralta double play and getting Avila swinging.
The game finished just before the rain arrived in Detroit, bringing a drenching to Comerica Park as the lights beamed down. The stadium blackout was long since over. The offensive blackout is ongoing.