"It's in the win column, and we swung the bats good. That's the bright side," said manager Jim Leyland, whose team now sits 3 1/2 games up on the White Sox in the American League Central. "The other side of it is Verlander just didn't know what to do."
It's an odd statement for a young pitcher who prides himself on the shutdown inning after his team puts up runs. This time, the only shutdown part of it was the walk Leyland had to make to take Verlander out of the game with two outs in the sixth, and the move reliever Bobby Seay did to step in between Verlander and catcher Gerald Laird when they exchanged words after the inning was over.
The Tigers scored nine runs over three games against the A's. They topped that total Monday alone once Guillen hit his sixth home run in 28 games since returning from the disabled list July 24. Eight starters in Detroit's lineup scored on the night, and the Tigers sent 10 batters to the plate in the decisive inning.
"That's more like the offense I thought we would have [this year]," Leyland said.
Miguel Cabrera not only belted his second homer in as many days with a two-run shot in the fifth off Angels starter Jered Weaver (13-5), he doubled in a run in the opening inning and two more in the sixth. The five RBIs marked his highest total since he drove in six against Texas in the Tigers' home opener April 10.
He has a nine-game hitting streak, during which he's 20-for-37, and he's batting .387 with 10 doubles, eight homers and 30 RBIs since the All-Star break. Leyland was being understated after the game when he said it looked like Cabrera is heating up.
"I feel good," Cabrera said. "I feel like I'm swinging at better pitches and not trying to do too much with the ball. Like I said, I'm trying to do my job."
Considering the Tigers had scored three runs total over Verlander's previous three starts, that support was expected to be plenty. But whether it was a long time sitting between innings, an in-game change of umpires behind the plate once Tim Welke had to leave with an injury, or something else, Verlander was clearly out of sorts after the rally.
He entered the inning with a four-hit shutout on his hands, having allowed a quartet of singles while striking out seven of the first 17 Angels he faced. He ended the fifth inning with three straight 100-mph fastballs to Chone Figgins, the last of them overpowering Figgins for a double-play ground ball to short. That form seemed gone.
Bobby Abreu worked him to a full count before lashing a single back through the middle, then Torii Hunter got him for an RBI double to the fence in left-center. But a Vladimir Guerrero double and a fielder's choice grounder from Juan Rivera gave Verlander the chance to gather himself.
It didn't matter. Four consecutive two-out hits followed, the final three of them singles as Verlander's pitch count flew past 100.
"I think he just wasn't sure quite what to do," Leyland said. "He wasn't quite sure whether to just make sure [to] throw strikes. That's a lesson for him. He's got to pitch like it's 1-0. Really, we expected to get two more innings out of him, the sixth and seventh. But he's a horse. He's pitched great for us, and that's a lesson that's well-learned in a winning cause.
"He had a long delay. You probably give him the benefit of the doubt."
Verlander agreed that there was a lesson: He should've played catch between innings.
"I was pretty much throwing everything where I wanted and had a good rhythm about me," Verlander said. "Just lost it in the sixth. That's the way things go. I tried to battle through it and felt like I got it back a little bit, but at that point they had a rally going and hit some decent pitches. It kind of snowballed from there."
Once Abreu's homer in the eighth off Brandon Lyon added three more runs, Rodney was warming up. Back-to-back hits from Hunter and Guerrero brought him into an unthinkable situation, a four-out save.
"I really had no choice," Leyland said.
Rodney, showing the best stability of the night, finished off his 27th save, and his first of more than one inning since last September. The Tigers finally ended off a wild night.
"The Tigers won the game," Leyland said. "That's the bottom line."