Tigers’ Verlander shuts down Rockies
DENVER — Justin Verlander took the mound Wednesday at Coors Field for the second time in his illustrious career and again made pitching at that hitter-friendly ballpark look rather easy.
The Detroit Tigers’ ace overmatched the Colorado Rockies in the rubber game of their series, which the Tigers won 6-2.
Relying mostly on a fastball-slider combination, Verlander (10-8) held the Rockies to three hits and one run in six innings with one walk and nine strikeouts — and even contributed on offense. He was 3-for-40 (.075) with 20 strikeouts when he singled home a run with two outs in the second to give the Tigers a 1-0 lead. The hit accounted for Verlander’s first career RBI.
“It was fun to be in my 12th year and have a first,” said Verlander, who looped a single off the end of his bat that fell in front of charging center fielder Charlie Blackmon.
Catcher James McCann, who broke the game open with a three-run homer in the fifth, approached the veteran right-hander with a friendly proposition prior to the start.
“I told him before the game, ‘Hey, today’s a National League game. Your goal is to drive in more than you let in.’ He drove in one, let in one so I guess I’ll give it to him.”
Verlander did not face a Rockies batter with a runner in scoring position and held Colorado scoreless for five innings. Blackmon led off the sixth with his 31st home run, connecting on Verlander’s hanging 1-1 curveball.
That was the final inning for Verlander, who left after throwing 98 pitches because he felt fatigue in the back of his right shoulder that he said was the result of hitting.
“One of the things I’ve been focused on for hitting is keeping my back elbow a little up, a little higher,” Verlander said. “It hasn’t caused any issues during batting practice, but (in a game) at the plate, your whole body’s kind of tense. It’s a place I’ve never really gotten sore before. I’ll take it for an RBI.”
Nicholas Castellanos hit a solo homer for Detroit in the third.
McCann gave Verlander more than ample breathing room when he clubbed a three-run homer with two outs in the fifth that made it 5-0, following singles by Dixon Machado and Castellanos, who finished a triple shy of the cycle and hit his 19th homer. McCann worked his way out of an 0-2 hole against Rockies starter Chad Bettis and belted his 13th homer on a 2-2 slider.
“He painted a fastball in first pitch and then away second pitch,” McCann said. “At that point, I was just kind of in battle mode — fight off the fastball and try and get a mistake. I was able to get deep enough (in the count) and was thankful I didn’t miss the mistake.”
Bettis (0-2) made his fourth start of the season since recovering from cancer and allowed seven hits and five runs in five innings.
“It was a slider that was supposed to be down and away, and it was middle-middle,” Bettis said of the fateful pitch to McCann. “It was poor execution pitching at a pivotal point in the game. I have to be better than that.”
In his only other start at Coors Field on June 9, 2011, Verlander threw a complete-game four-hitter and held the Rockies to one run. He continued his late-season surge and is 5-1 in his past seven starts with a 2.06 ERA, allowing 31 hits in 48 innings in that stretch with 10 walks and 56 strikeouts.
Verlander, 34, was throwing 95 mph in his final inning, down from 98 mph in the seventh and final inning of his last start Saturday because the back of his shoulder was tired, but it was an achievement nonetheless.
“The most impressive thing is that he continues to maintain his velocity, even deep into games,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “And he’s not 25 anymore. And he’s just unbelievably competitive — does not want to get beat.”
The Tigers are 27-42 on the road this season and just 4-11-4 in road series since May 6, losing 36 of 57 road games in that stretch.
“It was good to get a series from a very good team in their park,” Ausmus said.
The Tigers finished a 3-3 road trip, while the Rockies, who have scored three or fewer runs in 15 of their past 22 games, dropped the first series on their nine-game homestand. Colorado continues its homestand Friday with a crucial weekend series against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
The Rockies, who have lost 12 of their past 19 games, are 2 1/2 games behind the Diamondbacks in the National League wild-card race, pending the outcome of Arizona’s game Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Rockies are three games ahead of the Milwaukee Brewers in the hunt for the second wild-card spot.
“We will continue to do what we’ve done all year,” Rockies manager Bud Black said. “We will bounce back.”
NOTES: Rockies RHP German Marquez will start Sunday on regular rest in the series finale against Arizona rather than RHP Antonio Senzatela, who will be pushed back likely to Tuesday. ... Rockies LHP Tyler Anderson is scheduled to throw about 45 pitches Thursday for Triple-A Albuquerque, and is expected to have one more rehab start before the minor league seasons end. ... Rockies RHP Tyler Chatwood threw a season-high three innings in his sixth relief appearance of the season. ... Rockies RHP Scott Oberg worked the ninth, his first appearance since Aug. 20. ... Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera didn’t start for the second straight game due to lower back stiffness. He pinch-hit in the eighth with one out and the bases loaded and bounced into a double play that netted a run. ... Both teams concluded interleague play, the Tigers going 8-12 and the Rockies 10-10.