DETROIT -- Justin Verlander likes to emphasize the importance of the shutdown inning. When the Tigers put up a big inning, he wants to put up a scoreless one on the other side, retiring the order as quickly as possible and sending his team back to the plate.On Sunday, Verlander
DETROIT -- Justin Verlander likes to emphasize the importance of the shutdown inning. When the Tigers put up a big inning, he wants to put up a scoreless one on the other side, retiring the order as quickly as possible and sending his team back to the plate.
On Sunday, Verlander and the Tigers arguably won with the shutdown inning in reverse. It wasn't a scoreless inning after Detroit pulled ahead of the White Sox that sent them on their way to a 5-2 win and a series sweep. Instead, it was the jam Verlander escaped just before it.
Verlander actually did it twice. In the third inning, his back-to-back strikeouts of Jason Coats and Jose Abreu stranded runners at second and third and kept Detroit's deficit at 1-0, before Miguel Cabrera doubled in Cameron Maybin to tie the game in the bottom half. Verlander found his slider when he needed to against Abreu, whose first-inning homer put Chicago in front.
"I would say I found my slider a little bit there," Verlander said. "The fastball was kind of where I wanted it most of the day, but I was able to kind of lock it in a little bit better."
Two innings later, Verlander got a little help. When Jimmy Rollins doubled leading off the fifth and moved to third with one out, the White Sox needed just a base hit or a fly ball to pull in front. Jose Iglesias and James McCann ensured they didn't get it.
With the infield in, Iglesias had to make a diving stop with little reaction time when Tyler Saladino hit a sharp grounder to his right. Iglesias knocked it down, grabbed it and had the presence to look Rollins back to third before throwing to first for the out.
With that, the run-scoring out was no longer in play. If Adam Eaton was going to get the run home, he'd need a base hit to do it. So Chicago's speedy leadoff hitter tried to catch Detroit's defense by surprise with a two-out bunt.
Eaton took a swipe at Verlander's first pitch as he took off, giving him a running start to first base as the ball hit the grass down the first-base line and stopped. McCann broke out from behind the plate and called off Verlander, figuring his only chance at an out was to take it himself.
It wasn't a great chance at that. While Eaton sped toward first, McCann was lunging toward the line, putting Eaton right in his throwing path. He not only needed a strong throw to beat him, but an accurate one to avoid sending it down the line and sending Eaton into scoring position.
"The toughest part was keeping the throw inside the runner and not sailing it down the line," McCann said. "If I hit him in the back, it's a run. So the biggest thing when I picked it up was I wanted to put it in Miggy's chest, get rid of it as quickly as I can and keep it inside the line. Thankfully it worked out."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.