It didn't look right, seeing Justin Verlander with an "H" on his cap instead of an old English "D," with "HOUSTON" across his chest instead of "DETROIT." Verlander had made 380 regular-season starts in his career for the Detroit Tigers and 16 more in the postseason. He'll go down as one of the greatest Tigers ever and maybe the best pitcher in franchise history; he finished seventh in career wins and ranks second in WAR behind only Hal Newhouser.
Watching him take the mound in Seattle for the Houston Astros led to mixed emotions: the excitement Astros fans had to be feeling about his first game for them mixed with the melancholy of Tigers fans and the end of an era in Detroit. Even Verlander expressed some nerves before the outing:
Verlander did appear a little nervous early on, as he was pacing around the mound between pitches, looking like he was stalking a prey. He had an 11-pitch confrontation with Robinson Cano in the first inning, finally striking him out swinging on a 2-2 slider. He gave up two singles in the third but got Nelson Cruz to ground out to end the threat. Kyle Seager homered in the fourth off a hanging slider, tying the game at 1. Then in the sixth, Verlander allowed back-to-back singles -- including a Cano liner off the chest -- but got a double play and strikeout to escape that jam. His final pitch to Mitch Haniger, his 103rd of the game: 99 mph.
Welcome to the Astros, Mr. Verlander.
His final line: 6 IP, 6 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 7 SO. He even got the win when Cameron Maybin broke up Seattle's combined no-hitter in the seventh with a two-run homer. And if you were watching the game or on Twitter, you'll know that girlfriend/fiancee/supermodel Kate Upton was also there to support Verlander.
Verlander continued the dominant roll he has been on of late, with a 2.25 ERA in his past 12 starts. Can you say Game 1 playoff starter?
Boston Red Sox win second-longest game in Fenway history. By the way, this turned into a crazy, crazy day. I mean, we didn't have a four-homer game ... but we had lots of other wild stuff. How about this game? The Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 3-2 in 19 innings in a game that took exactly six hours and was the longest of 2017. The Sox finally won on a Mookie Betts double that Melky Cabrera should have caught in front of the Monster and Hanley Ramirez's bloop single that Kevin Pillar would've caught if he hadn't been playing in Worcester:
Remember Monday's note about the Los Angeles Angels setting an American League record by using 12 pitchers? The Red Sox tied it. Eleven relievers combined for 13 shutout innings, and the Red Sox staff finished with 23 strikeouts, tied for sixth-most in major league history but only the third-highest total of the season, as the Los Angeles Dodgers fanned 26 Milwaukee Brewers in 12 innings on June 2 and the New York Yankees fanned 26 Chicago Cubs in 18 innings on May 7. Maybe the strikeouts are getting a little out of control.
Anyway, the longest game in Fenway history remains a 20-inning Mariners-Red Sox game that took place over two days in September 1981 (back when the AL had a curfew). Here's the box score from that one.
Wild-card winner of the night. Recapping these wild-card races on a nightly basis is a daunting task, so new feature! Each night the rest of the season, we'll highlight a winner and loser of the night from either league. Tonight's winner is easy. Manny Machado did this with two outs in the bottom of the ninth and the Balitmore Orioles down 6-5:
I don't like to blame wins and losses on managers too often, but let's just say Buck Showalter outdueled Joe Girardi in this one. The Orioles rallied from a 6-1 deficit as Showalter had to pull Jeremy Hellickson in the midst of a six-run third inning. Six relievers shut down the Yankees after that inning -- including one inning from Ubaldo Jimenez -- as Buck pulled all the right levers.
Girardi, meanwhile, went two batters too long with CC Sabathia. It was 6-3 in the bottom of the sixth when Trey Mancini reached on an infield single. Mark Trumbo followed with a two-run home run. Chad Green threw 36 pitches on Monday, and he's Girardi's favorite guy of late in that situation, so he probably wasn't available. Still, after the home run, Girardi let Sabathia face Chris Davis and then brought in Tommy Kahnle. If he'd brought in Kahnle to get the platoon advantage against Trumbo, maybe it's a three-run lead in the ninth instead of a one-run lead.
Look, it wasn't a no-brainer to yank Sabathia there, but it's not like he was throwing a gem. Of course, in the end, Dellin Betances didn't do his job, with a terrible hanging curveball to Machado and walking the free-swinging Tim Beckham with two outs ahead of Machado's home run, but when you have a chance to put away a team in the middle innings and you have a deep bullpen, you have to use it. Leaving Sabathia in was key to letting the game slip away.
Wild-card loser of the night. For the second straight game, the Seattle Mariners were tied in the seventh inning, only to lose the game. Monday night's contest turned when two intentional walks ordered by Scott Servais predictably backfired and the Astros scored four runs. On Tuesday, it was Maybin's home run off Emilio Pagan. For all the injuries to Seattle's rotation, the offense hasn't done the job lately, ranking 12th in the AL in runs per game since Aug. 1.
Plus, smoke from surrounding forest fires coated the Seattle area with ash and hazy skies. Not a good night in Seattle.
Kinda eerie setting at Safeco tonight, thanks to smoke in air from forest fires around Pacific Northwest. pic.twitter.com/Lpi3FmbsIk— Greg Johns (@GregJohnsMLB) September 6, 2017
Red Sox and New York Yankees both might or might not be cheating. MLB is investigating the Red Sox for using electronic communication -- in this case, an Apple Watch -- to relay signs to batters. The Red Sox have accused the Yankees of stealing signs. Here's Scott Lauber's report from Boston and Andrew Marchand's report from Yankeeland.
What to make of the whole affair? I liked this tweet:
Seeing the Yankees and Red Sox argue over who's a bigger cheater is oddly satisfying.— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) September 6, 2017
Cleveland Indians win. Arizona Diamondbacks win. That's what kind of night it was: The Indians extended their win streak to 13 games, and the Diamondbacks extended theirs to 12 games (tying a franchise record), and neither was the top story of the night. For the Indians, Jose Ramirez blasted two home runs in a 9-4 victory over the White Sox (though Danny Salazar got just two outs and gave up four runs in his return from elbow inflammation). Your AL leaders in extra-base hits:
The Diamondbacks, meanwhile, scored twice in the 10th inning to beat the Dodgers 3-1, with the winning runs scoring when catcher Yasmani Grandal misplayed Justin Turner's throw from third base for an error and two unearned runs. Still, the rally started thanks to two walks from Pedro Baez, who is pitching himself out of a key role in October as he continues to struggle. He had that glowing ERA early in the season, but the peripheral stats suggested he had been somewhat lucky. He was. He's still a guy who walks too many batters (24 in 56 innings) and gives up home runs (nine).
The bigger story for the Dodgers is an offense that has apparently been eaten up by the San Andreas fault. They've now lost 10 of 11 as they've hit .200 and averaged 2.36 runs per game. That's more losses in 11 games than they lost in 61 games from June 7 to Aug. 19. Yes, you can't predict baseball!