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Tigers get another solid start, but not end result

Despite Verlander continuing rotation's dominance, Detroit now trails in series

DETROIT -- The Tigers' starting pitchers have struck out 45 batters in 29 innings, while only allowing two runs over the past four games. Yet, the Tigers have lost two of those games and find themselves down 2-1 to the Red Sox in the American League Championship Series.

It's a familiar theme for Detroit, which had strong outings by its starters throughout the AL Division Series against the A's and still had to win the last two games of the series to avoid elimination. The latest chapter featured Justin Verlander striking out 10 over eight innings in Game 3 of the ALCS, but the Tigers still lost, 1-0, on Tuesday.

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"The fans are frustrated, we are frustrated, the coaching staff, everybody is frustrated that we couldn't get any run support for JV after that pitching performance," right fielder Torii Hunter said.

Verlander struck out 11 in seven scoreless innings against Oakland in Game 2 of the ALDS, and took a no-decision before the Tigers lost 1-0 on a walk-off single. Whether it's been through a letdown in the bullpen or a lack of runs, the Tigers haven't been able to take full advantage of their starting pitching.

"Obviously to give my team a chance to win today I would have had to throw up all zeroes, and I wasn't able to do that," Verlander said. "I wouldn't say it's frustrating, it's -- you know, I think you kind of expect that in this series. It's just kind of the way it's going to go. It's going to be a battle for every single out, every single run."

Boston's hitters are 6-for-69 with 35 strikeouts against Detroit's starters through three games. The Tigers are the first team in postseason history to have their starter strike out at least 10 batters in four consecutive postseason games.

"It doesn't get much better than this," said Rick Porcello, who was in the rotation during the regular season, before being moved to the bullpen for the playoffs. "There's not much higher you can go."

The Tigers' staff will likely need to continue on their pace to achieve their World Series aspirations.

"I know all four guys that are starting have the ability to pitch the way they have been pitching," Porcello said. "In the postseason, obviously the lineups are real good offensive lineups, and this is two years in a row now the starters have been really outstanding, like off the charts.

"What Justin has done, what Max [Scherzer] and Anibal [Sanchez] have done, it's been tremendous. I haven't seen anybody throw a ball as consistently as they have for an extended period of time that they've been doing it. They've been really lights out."

The Tigers have held their opponents hitless at least through 4 2/3 innings in each of the past four games. In seven of their eight postseason games, the Tigers have been rewarded with a quality start, yet club has a 4-4 record.

"Baseball is a crazy game," Hunter said. "Your ace is out there doing his thing, and then one home run determines the game. It's a crazy game. You stay here long enough, you're going to always see something new. I've been playing 20-plus years of professional ball, and I promise you, I see something new every year."

While it's the wins and losses that will determine how Detroit's starters will be remembered for their postseason dominance, that doesn't mean they haven't left their teammates in awe.

"We have really good starting pitching, that's no secret, everybody knows that," infielder Ramon Santiago said. "The way Verlander has been performing all postseason, Sanchez and Max Scherzer all year, that doesn't surprise me. But to be at the top of their game like that, I've never seen it before."

Bobby Nightengale is an associate reporter for

Detroit Tigers, Anibal Sanchez, Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander