Verlander off his game in rare spring clunker
Offense stalls behind Tigers ace, who allows five runs, including two homers
LAKELAND, Fla. -- Jordany Valdespin jumped Justin Verlander's third pitch of the day for his second home run off Tigers pitching in four days before a Verlander fastball knocked him out of the game, part of a bizarre day and an 11-0 Mets win Monday at Joker Marchant Stadium.
Valdespin's third homer of the spring was a drive pulled down the right-field line on Verlander's 1-1 pitch. It was reminiscent of some of the early damage Verlander took in some of his starts last summer. In this case, however, he never settled in.
"It just wasn't a good day," Verlander said afterward. "Usually there's one of those in the spring, one or two. You'd rather get them out of the way in the spring."
The day went much smoother for Mets starter Jon Niese, who blanked the Tigers for the second time in 12 days with 4 2/3 innings of one-hit ball. He walked four, but only one of those runners advanced.
John Buck doubled leading off the second inning against Verlander and scored on a rare run-scoring balk with only a runner on third, which became irrelevant once Brandon Hicks homered a couple pitches later for a 3-0 lead.
Verlander overcame leadoff runners in the second and third inning before a one-out, fifth-inning walk to Hicks set up the ending to his start. Valdespin turned to bunt on a 1-0 pitch, hoping to move the runner over, but Verlander's fastball went inside and hit Valdespin in the groin area, sending him to the ground in pain.
Brian Bixler replaced Valdespin, who later said he was OK. Ike Davis' two-run single off Kenny Faulk completed Verlander's line: five runs on four hits over 4 1/3 innings with two walks, three strikeouts and two hit-by-pitches.
Bixler had two hits and two RBIs, including an eighth-inning solo homer off Trevor Bell. Buck went 2-for-3 and scored twice. Former Mets Minor Leaguer Matt Tuiasosopo had two of Detroit's three hits through the first seven innings.
Up next: Drew Smyly will try to continue his scoreless-innings streak Tuesday, when he faces the Phillies for the second time this spring, this time in a 1:05 p.m. ET matchup Tuesday in Clearwater, Fla. Smyly has the equivalent of a complete-game three-hitter thus far this spring, with a walk and six strikeouts. Al Alburquerque, Luke Putkonen, Joaquin Benoit and Darin Downs are also scheduled to pitch opposite Phillies starter Roy Halladay. The game will be available live on MLB.TV and Gameday Audio as well as on delay on MLB Network beginning at 4 p.m. ET.