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News » Detroit Tigers Inside Pitch 2009-05-09

Detroit Tigers Inside Pitch 2009-05-09

Detroit Tigers Inside Pitch 2009-05-09
Somebody was going to win or lose the game Friday night for Detroit, but only if his name was Justin Verlander.

"His last pitch in the eighth was a nice easy 97 (mph)," said manager Jim Leyland, who debated internally and with pitching coach Rick Knapp about sending Verlander out to protect a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning with a pitch count at 101.

"I could have sent (Fernando) Rodney out there," Leyland said. "But Rick (Knapp) said he was still throwing pretty good. I decided once he goes out there in the ninth, he's either going to get a win or a loss. He's not coming out."

Good decision.

Verlander was hitting a nice comfortable 98 and 99 mph with his fastball in the ninth and he won an epic duel with Cleveland Grady Sizemore that decided the outcome.

Sizemore was up with a man out and a runner on first -- Josh Barfield, pinch-running for Luis Valbuena, who got both walks Verlander issued. Verlander never gave a thought to throwing Sizemore something offspeed, especially in light of the fact he'd retired the Indians center fielder three times throwing almost exclusively fastballs.

Sizemore cranked a 99-mph offering over the center field fence for an apparent walk-off winner -- until Curtis Granderson made a perfectly timed leap, reached over the fence and hauled the fly ball back onto the field for the second out of the inning.

Verlander closed out the game with his 11th strikeout on his 118th pitch of the game.

In this day of closely monitored pitch counts and managers careful to cover their tracks with by-the-book gaming dictating their moves, Leyland isn't afraid to go against the grain with Verlander.

The young right-hander is rapidly maturing after getting thumped most of the time last year and having given up 24 runs in his first 21 innings this season. Now he's won three in a row having allowed just one run in those three starts.

Leyland often will let Verlander's pitch count exceed 100, especially when he's throwing a nice comfortable 97-99 at the end of his outing.

TIGERS 1, INDIANS 0: RHP Justin Verlander, hustle and a terrific defensive play in the ninth inning Friday night combined to get Detroit two games above .500 again. Verlander pitched a two-hitter for the third shutout and fourth complete game of his career while CF Curtis Granderson leaped above the wall in center to pull back a bid for a two-run walk-off home run by CF Grady Sizemore at the end of an epic battle between a fastball hitter and a fastball pitcher. Sizemore bashed a 99 mph fastball by Verlander over the fence but Granderson timed his leap perfectly and pulled it back for the second out of the ninth. Verlander struck out SS Asdrubal Caberera for his 11th strikeout of the game to end it. Granderson walked with one out in the eighth, stole second, moved to third on a groundout and scored when RF Clete Thomas hustled out a ground ball single to second base to drive in the only run of the game.

Author:Fox Sports
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Added: May 9, 2009

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