Angels' bats silenced in finale vs. Tigers
Club held without a hit from second through eighth innings
DETROIT -- The temperatures were in the 70s Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the Motor City, but the Angels bats were cold. So cold, in fact, that Tigers ace Justin Verlander faced just one batter over the minimum batters one out into the ninth inning.
The final verdict: Four hits, a 5-1 Angels loss and a series sweep on the road. Los Angeles now limps into Beantown against a struggling Red Sox team, which was swept by the Orioles this weekend, starting Monday for four games.
The further into the game Verlander (2-2), the better he was. Not only did he retire 23 consecutive Angels hitters from the first through the ninth, but Los Angeles didn't get many good swings after the third inning. A few of the balls hit early, notably a couple of line drives by Bobby Abreu and a leadoff lineout in the first off the bat of Erick Aybar, were struck hard. But Verlander appeared to be pitching to contact, often using his curveball in typical fastball situations.
There were some strikeouts -- seven of them in all, including three in the final two innings. But mostly it was weak groundouts and harmless fly balls from the middles innings on by the Angels.
"After that fourth inning, we weren't able to get any good swings of him until we got that run in the ninth," said outfielder Torii Hunter. "We had some solid hits early, but you have to have luck on your side, too."
Manager Mike Scioscia agreed. He felt that there were more quality swings early in the game than the final numbers would indicate, with Verlander giving up three hits -- two in the ninth -- over 8 1/3 innings before Detroit closer Jose Valverde recorded the final two outs.
"We had some good hits early and not much to show for it," Scioscia said. "As the game progressed, [Verlander] began to pound the strike zone. He definitely had better command than when we faced him at home."
That was a 5-4 Detroit win on April 22 during which Verlander allowed four runs and six hits in five innings.
"I definitely had a groove going today and it was easy to repeat my delivery, which is what I've been working on," Verlander said.
There was more than one ace pitching, though, in Detroit, and for the first four innings Sunday, Jered Weaver matched Verlander. Weaver (3-1) recorded six strikeouts in the first four innings, including striking out the side in the first with Tigers leadoff many Austin Jackson standing at third. He scattered two harmless singles in the second and third innings but neither time did those runners advance into scoring position.
There may have been a reason for those strikeouts. Certainly the movement was there, but so was some extra power. There were a couple of times that Detroit's scoreboard radar gun timed Weaver's fastball at 94-95 mph on strikeouts of Magglio Ordonez and Miguel Cabrera, generally the upper limit of his heat.
"Five years ago I threw harder, but then some things happened with my health and I had to learn how to pitch more," Weaver said. "Now I have a lot of my velocity back and I need to add the command I need to pitch seven, eight and nine innings at a time."
In the Tigers fifth, some of those batted balls off Weaver began to find holes. Alex Avila, Scott Sizemore and Ramon Santiago, Detroit's bottom three hitters, started the frame with three consecutive singles. Santiago's RBI came on a handle-popped rainbow that found a home along in the right-field foul line, just in front of Abreu. Three pitches later, Weaver threw one to the backstop, scoring Santiago.
About this time Weaver's pitch count began to surreptitiously climb. He threw his 100th pitch, a changeup, by Ordonez for a first pitch-strike with Santiago perched on third and two outs in that fifth. But the next four pitches were balls. Pitch 107 was lined into right-center for an RBI single by Cabrera and a 3-0 Detroit lead. Weaver's afternoon was done.
"They got a few balls to fall in but you still have to pitch your way out of it," Weaver said. "The biggest problem is that I had to throw a lot of pitches to get to the fifth inning because they fouled off a lot of balls."
Detroit manager Jim Leyland said Weaver is one of the top starters in the American League but agreed that his high pitch count caught up with him. Jason Bulger replaced Weaver in the fifth and was greeted rudely by Brennan Boesch's double into right. That was more than enough for Verlander.
"That first inning spent him," Leyland said of Weaver's work striking out the side in the first. That's kind of the situation Verlander has been in (throwing a high number of pitches)."
Jason Bulger replaced Weaver in the fifth and was greeted rudely by Brennan Boesch's double into right. That was more than enough for Verlander.
The Detroit ace was given the opportunity to finish what he started by Leyland in the ninth. But after Reggie Willits hit a one-out single to break the streak of 23 consecutive Angels batters retired, he moved to second on defensive indifference and scored on Aybar's seeing-eye single, breaking up the shutout and chasing Verlander.
Hideki Matsui went 0-for-4 against Verlander and through his translator credited the Detroit righty with having sharp command.
"His velocity, his breaking ball and all his pitches were very good," Matsui said, adding that Verlander seems to relax a bit once Detroit's offense gives him a lead. The always ebullient Hunter confirmed that Verlander posed a problem for the Angels on Sunday, and recounts his days in Minnesota in 2006 and '07, when the young Detroit righty was first building his Major League resume.
"I used to hate facing him," Hunter said with a smile. "The way he pitched today, there are times when I still do."
Mike Scott is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.