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Published: Sunday, 7/27/2008

Tigers' stopper springs a leak

BY JOE VARDON
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander reflects on his last pitch, a two-run homer to Carlos Quentin of the Chicago White Sox. Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander reflects on his last pitch, a two-run homer to Carlos Quentin of the Chicago White Sox.
PAUL SANCYA / AP Enlarge

DETROIT - Justin Verlander's first pitch of last night's game sailed near Chicago shortstop Orlando Cabrera's head.

It was a sign that the Tigers, not Cabrera, were in trouble.

"He was warming up, before the first hitter had stepped in, and he didn't get one ball down," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "I didn't like what I was seeing."

Verlander was off all night and suffered his shortest outing this season, and the Tigers lost 7-6 to the White Sox. His personal winning streak stopped at six games, and Detroit (52-51) now trails Chicago by 7 1/2 games for first place in the American League Central.

Almost as poor as Verlander's performance was his timing.

Chicago entered this three-game series leading the Tigers by 5 1/2 games. Detroit gave up ground Friday night when losing a game it appeared to have wrapped up until closer Todd Jones allowed a go-ahead, two-run homer with two outs in the ninth.

The Tigers needed Verlander to stop the bleeding once again - three of his last four victories have come after a Detroit loss - but he couldn't. The Sox hammered his elevated pitches for seven runs on nine hits and a walk in four-plus innings.

"He was a little bit like a bull in a China shop, he just couldn't get himself under control," Leyland said. "And that happens. I'm certainly not mad at Verlander. He was so pumped up, he forgot to pitch."

Carlos Quentin, the AL's home run leader, socked his 27th homer in the third inning, a two-run shot that gave Chicago a 3-1 advantage. Jermaine Dye, who had the game-winning homer Friday night, homered again immediately following Quentin's blast.

Detroit scored three in the fourth inning to tie it at four - two runs scored on Magglio Ordonez's infield single thanks to second baseman Alexei Ramirez's throwing error - but the Sox came right back.

Verlander (8-10) let the first three hitters he faced in the fifth reach base, including Dye, who singled home A.J. Pierzynski. An RBI double by Jim Thome and Nick Swisher's sacrifice fly, both against reliever Bobby Seay, accounted for the rest of Verlander's runs.

"That's never good. You score, they come right back and score," Leyland said.

Last night's outing was certainly not the norm for Verlander. He hadn't allowed more than two earned runs in his eight starts since June 6 and the seven runs last night made for his highest earned-run total this season.

The Tigers' hitters also had their chances to bail out Verlander.

Ordonez, who hit a solo homer in the sixth off Chicago starter John Danks, led off the eighth with a double. Sox reliever Octavio Dotel recovered to strike out Miguel Cabrera, retire Gary Sheffield (who homered in the second) on an infield fly, and whiff Marcus Thames.

Detroit loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh and pushed a run home on Dotel's wild pitch, but Carlos Guillen struck out with the tying and go-ahead runs on base.

Curtis Granderson doubled with two outs in the ninth against Sox closer Bobby Jenks, but Placido Polanco struck out to end it.

NOTES: The Tigers announced 45,280 tickets sold for last night's game, a Comerica Park record Detroit wore throwback uniforms honoring the Detroit Stars while the White Sox donned Chicago American Giants gear last night in celebration of Negro Leagues Weekend. Former Negro Leagues players Frank Crossan, Mel Duncan, Joe Douse, Herald Gordon, Gene Johnson, Marvin Jones, Cecil Kaiser, Alton King, Jim Moore and Ron Teasley were introduced before the game.

Contact Joe Vardon at:

vardon@theblade.com

or 419-410-5055.



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