All-Star Game: 1st-inning runs sink Justin Verlander
Kansas City, Mo. • Justin Verlander wanted to give the fans an All-Star show.
The Tigers' ace certainly did that Tuesday night, though not in the way he intended.
The reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner offered a steady series of 100 mph fastballs that National League hitters sent soaring all over picturesque Kauffman Stadium. Verlander was hammered for five runs in the first inning as the National League cruised to an 8-0 victory.
"I was able to laugh at it right away," Verlander said after leaving the game. "Obviously, you don't want to go out like that, but I had fun. That's why I don't try to throw 100 [mph] in the first inning, but this is for the fans. It doesn't usually work out too well for me."
Verlander was picked to start the All-Star game by AL manager Ron Washington, who no doubt knows the value of home-field advantage in the World Series awarded to the winning side.
Nobody questioned his choice, either.
The hard-throwing Verlander came within two outs of his third career no-hitter against Pittsburgh in May. He was coming off two complete games in his last three starts, and had allowed only seven runs in the first inning of 18 starts all season.
The NL nearly tallied that much during the biggest first inning since the 2004 game.
"I know this game means something and you don't want to give up runs, but we're here for the fans," Verlander said. "I know the fans don't want to see me throw 90 and try to hit the corners."
Washington was careful in his assessment of Verlander, dancing around questions about whether he was happy with the approach taken by the Tigers' top starter.
"Well, it's very disappointing, because we're competitors and we want to win," Washington said. "You've got to tip your hat to the National League again. They came out, swung the bats, and once they got the lead, started bringing those arms in their hand, and they got the job done."
Even though Washington might have preferred Verlander take the start a little more seriously, there were plenty of guys on the AL squad who wanted to see him ramp up the heat.
"Hitting 100 in the first inning? Normally you see the guy throw 93, 94 in the first and then hit 100 in the eighth. We saw him hit 101," Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano said. "The funniest part was [Prince] Fielder said to him, 'Hit 101' and the next pitch he hit 101. Is it that easy?"
Evidently, it's easier than getting guys out.
Verlander ran into trouble almost immediately, giving up a one-out single to Melky Cabrera and Ryan Braun's RBI double. He recovered to strike out Joey Votto, but walked Carlos Beltran and Buster Posey the latter on four pitches, a couple tickling triple digits on the radar gun.
That's when Pablo Sandoval stepped to the plate.
The portly Giants slugger ripped his first triple of 2012 off the right-field wall, clearing the bases and leaving Verlander to wander around the mound in a stupor.
"I don't get many triples," Sandoval said. "We had some fun with that in the dugout."
At one point during the first inning, Rangers pitching coach Mike Maddux made his way to the mound a rarity any time Verlander starts, and downright unheard of in an All-Star game.
"I knew why he was coming out, to tell me to slow down," Verlander said. "Before he hit the mound, I was like, 'Hey, I can't slow down now.' "
Verlander eventually got through the inning and was replaced by Joe Nathan, an altogether embarrassing way to leave his fifth All-Star game. He'd allowed five earned runs in a start once all season, and hadn't given up five in any inning since April 11, 2010, against the Indians.
"It is surprising, because he's one of the best pitchers in the league. He proved that last year by winning the MVP and the Cy Young," Cardinals slugger Beltran said. "Normally when you face him during the season, you kind of get 90 or 91 early in the game. He came out firing 97 or 98. I guess he was missing his spots. We were able to capitalize."