ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — Detroit manager Brad Ausmus was ejected in the third inning Saturday night. He didn’t miss much offense from the Tigers.
Michigan native Matt Shoemaker combined with two relievers on a four-hitter, and the Los Angeles Angels beat the Tigers 4-0 to hand the AL Central leaders their fifth shutout this season.
Justin Verlander gave up Efren Navarro’s first major league home run, a leadoff shot in the second inning. Detroit’s only hits against Shoemaker were Ian Kinsler’s first-inning double and singles by Eugenio Suarez and Austin Jackson.
Navarro found the seats above the 18-foot wall in right-center on a 1-1 pitch from Verlander (9-9), who has given up at least one homer in 10 of his last 12 starts. Navarro also singled home the go-ahead run Friday night against Drew Smyly in a 2-1 victory after the Tigers’ lefty struck out eight of his first 10 batters and 11 overall.
Navarro’s homer came in his 79th big league at-bat. He drove in another run during the Angels’ two-run sixth as Albert Pujols scored on the rookie’s grounder to shortstop. C.J. Cron followed with a double that scored Howie Kendrick.
“For the most part I was executing OK,” Verlander said. “Early on I didn’t feel great, but then I kind of started to find my rhythm. The one pitch I regret was hanging a curveball (to Cron), and he was able to hit it down the line. If I had executed better, then it’s only a two-run lead and we’ve got a chance to come back. It’s a big difference between two runs and three.”
Verlander allowed three runs and six hits in seven innings with four strikeouts and a walk. The 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner was the latest in a series of All-Stars that Shoemaker (8-3) has more than held his own against this season – including Cliff Lee, David Price, James Shields, Chris Sale and Yu Darvish.
The rookie is 4-0 in those starts with a 2.27 ERA.
“It’s definitely a confidence builder. It’s a blessing and a lot of fun,” Shoemaker said. “But I try not to focus on who the opposing pitcher is – just the hitters that I’m facing.”
Ausmus was tossed after he came out to argue a call that was reversed on instant replay. First base umpire Jim Joyce originally called Suarez safe on a pickoff throw by Shoemaker, but a 3-minute video review convinced the crew in New York that Pujols tagged the diving Suarez before his hand touched the bag.
“The rules state that once the hitter’s in the box and the pitcher’s on the rubber, you cannot challenge the play. It’s pretty black and white. And that was the case,” Ausmus said. “The umpires have the right to initiate a review on their own, but they clearly didn’t. Mike Scioscia initiated the review by coming out of the dugout.
“I wasn’t technically arguing the challenge. I was arguing the fact that they couldn’t challenge the rule in the first place,” he added. “I was ejected immediately, but I don’t think I should have been. If I was arguing the call, that’s a different story.”
Ausmus explained that he had no grounds to play the game under protest. And he wasn’t about to contact Major League Baseball on Sunday for clarification – not with his former Dodgers manager, Joe Torre, in Cooperstown to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
“I’d like clarification, but this isn’t the weekend to be texting Joe,” Ausmus said with a smirk.
Angels first-time All-Star Erick Aybar started in the cleanup spot for the first time in his nine-year career, going 2 for 3 with a sacrifice bunt. Left fielder Josh Hamilton sat out because of a sore left knee.
Aybar came in with 51 RBIs, the most among AL shortstops, and was 9 for 27 in his career against Verlander.
“He’s a good ballplayer,” Verlander said. “He’s tough to strike out and he puts the ball in play a lot. He can do the little things – move guys over and put a bunt down when he needs to.”
Nine-time Gold Glove winner Torii Hunter robbed Mike Trout of a hit in the first with a tumbling, shoestring catch in short right field. But Hunter’s fielding error in the eighth allowed Aybar to take an extra base on a single, and he scored on Kendrick’s double against Joakim Soria – making his Tigers debut following Wednesday night’s trade from Texas.
Shoemaker threw just 78 pitches through seven innings, allowing three hits and no walks while striking out five against a lineup that came in leading the AL in batting average, hits, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
Kevin Jepsen pitched a perfect eighth and Jason Grilli got the last three outs, reducing Detroit’s lead in the AL Central over Kansas City to five games.
NOTES: Verlander, third on the Tigers’ career strikeout list behind Mickey Lolich and Jack Morris, has 28 double-digit strikeout games in his big league career – but none this year in 22 starts. This is the deepest he’s gone into a season without one since 2006, his first year as a full-time starter in the majors, when he made 30 starts and had no more than eight Ks in any of them.