Tigers drop first tilt despite Verlander's strong start
Red-hot Hunter delivers only run with third homer of series
DETROIT -- Justin Verlander was good on Sunday afternoon, but Chris Tillman was better.
Verlander allowed two runs on five hits over eight innings, but the bats could only push across one and the Tigers lost to the Orioles by a 3-1 score, the first loss for Detroit.
Tillman was an All-Star last year and he showed why on Sunday, allowing one run on five hits over 8 1/3 innings, striking out five.
"Tillman was outstanding," right fielder Torii Hunter said. "This guy has great stuff. The curveball he threw me, it scared me, actually. He was definitely keeping us off balance. Miggy had some good swings off him. [Victor] Martinez had some good hits, and I had some good swings.
"We tried, and this guy was just outstanding. Cutter outside, fastball [at] 93, 94 [mph] -- the curveball, I'm telling you, is unbelievable. His first full season last year, made All-Star; this guy is definitely a No. 1, one of the best starters in the game."
Tillman threw 113 pitches, 74 for strikes. Of his 72 fastballs, 50 were strikes, as were 10 of his 15 sliders. At last year's All-Star Game, Verlander and Max Scherzer shared some general pitching tips with Tillman. Verlander joked Sunday that he regretted doing that.
"Tilly was great," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "Some guys kind of see Verlander in their spot and kind of shake their head. Tilly takes it on as a challenge to compete against one of the best in the game. He gives that type of effort. ... I'm real proud of everybody. They grinded it out."
The Tigers offense was kept off the basepaths until the fourth, when Hunter hit a solo home run to left field to break up Tillman's perfect game and the scoreless tie. It was Hunter's third home run in as many days. It marked the eighth time in 11 plate appearances that Hunter reached safely, and the fourth time in his career he hit a home run in three straight games.
It was the only run the Tigers would score, but it looked like it might hold up with the way Verlander was pitching. He had allowed four baserunners through five innings, with only one getting into scoring position.
But Adam Jones hit a one-out double in the sixth and Nelson Cruz tied the game with a double of his own.
In the eighth, Baltimore's Nick Markakis took a low-and-inside curveball to right field for a triple and scored on Jones' sac fly.
"The Markakis triple, I executed my pitch," Verlander said. "He got jammed and just hit it in the right spot and made a nice, aggressive play to turn it into a triple. Then Adam Jones put up a great at-bat against me. I felt good, though. That's all I can ask."
Through two starts, Verlander says he feels no effects from offseason core muscle repair surgery. He has allowed four earned runs in 14 innings, throwing more than 100 pitches in each start. The velocity is also there, but he has just five strikeouts. Last season, he recorded three strikeouts in a start five times, and never fewer than that. He had two on Opening Day against Kansas City and three on Sunday.
"I talked to Max about that when I came out of the game," Verlander said. "You get a feel for strikeouts. My feel for those isn't quite there yet. I'm not quite executing as well as I should, or maybe over-trying with two strikes, hanging stuff and letting it be hittable as opposed to executing it. But that's pretty typical for me, I think. You end up finding a feel for it."
He didn't have many, but Verlander's fifth-inning strikeout of Steve Lombardozzi was the 1,675th of his career, moving him into fourth place all-time in Tigers history.
"I had no idea," Verlander said. "That was pretty cool, especially when you think that it's not like we're an expansion team. This is a team that's been around for [more than 100] years. That's pretty special to have my name starting to climb up some ladders. There's a lot of history in this organization. To have my name start to be near the top of these all-time things is pretty cool."
A solo home run by Matt Wieters off Al Alburquerque in the ninth extended the lead to 3-1. Martinez doubled in the bottom of the frame, ending Tillman's day, but the Tigers could not rally.
"This is the first time I've seen [Tillman] pitch in person," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "We had some good at-bats, but ... as well as Justin pitched, he matched him and pitched into the ninth. So I kind of tip my hat to him. We swung the bats well the past couple days. Today, the bats cooled a little bit."