(Sports Network) - In what could possibly be a World Series preview, the
Detroit Tigers and Washington Nationals clash Tuesday night in the opener of a
short two-game set from Nationals Park.
The Tigers look to keep rolling when they enter the nation's capital and have
won four straight and 10 of 12 games. They completed a four-game sweep of the
Houston Astros with Sunday's 9-0 victory and outscored the 'Stros, 26-2 in the
last two installments of the series.
In the finale at Minute Maid Park, ace Justin Verlander hurled seven shutout
innings, struck out nine and allowed only two hits for the win. Verlander
flirted with a no-hitter and threw 116 pitches, 80 for strikes.
"I really wasn't thinking about the pitch count," Verlander said. "It really
is a non-issue at that point. It's kind of out of my hands. I was early. But I
started getting in the sixth, seventh inning, I wasn't thinking about it. You
can't play the what-if, should-have, could-have game."
Darin Downs tossed the final two frames to preserve the win.
Verlander benefited from four home runs by Andy Dirks, Prince Fielder, Brayan
Pena and Omar Infante. Dirks was 4-for-4 with three runs scored Fielder ended
with three hits and four RBI for the Tigers, who are one game ahead of Kansas
City for the AL Central lead.
Anibal Sanchez gets the call for the defending AL champions on Tuesday and he
has lost two of his last three starts. In a 6-2 loss to Minnesota last
Wednesday, Sanchez gave up a season high three runs in six innings and fanned
nine. He is 3-2 in six starts and his earned run average went from 1.34 to
Sanchez, though, has dominated the Nationals from his days with the Marlins
and the right-hander is 8-0 with a 1.97 ERA in 19 starts against them.
Washington won a series in Pittsburgh over the weekend and posted a 6-2 win
over the Pirates on Sunday behind home runs from Tyler Moore and Danny
Espinosa. Both players had three RBI for the Nationals, winners in four of
their last five games.
Gio Gonzalez picked up the win and pitched six innings of two-run ball, while
scattering five hits and striking out five. Relievers Drew Storen, Tyler
Clippard and Rafael Soriano tossed a scoreless inning apiece.
Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper was ejected early after arguing a called
third strike and Roger Bernadina replaced him. Bernadina was 2-for-4 with a
"It's just something that happened. I'm glad it didn't cause the outcome of
the game where we are losing," Harper said of the first-inning ejection. "We
got the 'W' today and things like that happen."
Nats veteran outfielder Jayson Werth missed his third straight game and is
dealing with a balky right hamstring. Werth could return Tuesday and could
also just wait until Friday's series with the Chicago Cubs.
Jordan Zimmermann has been the ace of the Washington staff so far and gets the
ball again Tuesday. Zimmermann is 5-1 with a 1.64 earned run average in six
starts and has won back-to-back outings, including last Wednesday's 2-0 win at
Atlanta. He held the Braves to two hits over eight scoreless innings and
struck out a season-best eight batters.
"He's obviously got everything working right now," Nationals catcher Kurt
Suzuki said. "He's pitching up in the zone, down in the zone, in and out, he's
really mixing it up with his breaking balls, he's throwing breaking balls for
strikes. He's got it working. Even during the game, he keeps it loose. He's
really fun to work with."
Zimmermann hasn't given up a run in each of his last two starts, spanning 17
innings, and has allowed only two runs in the previous three trips to the
mound. The right-hander has won all three of his starts at Nationals Park this
season and will face Detroit for the first time.
The last time the Tigers and Nationals met Detroit swept a three-game series
at home in 2010. Washington lost all three matchups as the host in 2007.
The Sports Network