Justin Verlander, meet Jack Morris


Justin Verlander had a bad day on Sunday. A Lemony Snicket, series-of-unfortunate-events kind of day. While Tigers Nation looked to the Ace to stop the bleeding of an 0-for-8 seasonal skid against the Cleveland Indians, he could not stop the balls from flying out of Comerica Park as he registered the second four-homer game of his career. The last time he gave up four home runs in one game? September 18, 2007, also against the Cleveland Indians.

History that repeats itself definitely sucks sometimes.

It wasn't just that he gave up four home runs in the game, though. It's that he gave up all four bombs in the same inning. My fellow researches and Finders of Baseball Facts say this is the first time this has happened in Tigers history.

Uribe. Naquin. Napoli. Chisenhall. (Yes, Chisenhall.)

What happened to JV? Maybe part of it is just that he's always struggled somewhat with Cleveland's bats. They don't hit him for average, but they do hit him with power, or so suggests a career opponent slashline that runs .245/.320/.399 with a .719 OPS and a .154 ISO. No, those aren't Babe Ruth-ian numbers, but they suggest that this sort of thing can happen. It's in the realm of possibility.

With Sunday's debacle, Verlander became just the ninth Tigers pitcher in history to log more than one four-dinger game. He's got some decent company on that list. Kenny Rogers, for example. Jack Morris, for another.

Ah yes, Jack Morris. The living, breathing reminder that -- at least in this specific case -- things could always be worse.

Justin Verlander may have given up four home runs in a game for the second time in his career, but Jack Morris did it four times in his career, and three of those games were in the same season. You'd think 1986 wouldn't have been a particularly great year for a guy who pitched three separate four-dinger games, but Morris finished the season with a 3.27 ERA and a 21-8 record (note: win/loss records are meaningless, unless you're talking about a pitcher from the 80's, because that's the only stat that mattered back then).

He was fifth in the Cy Young voting. See, JV? It's ok, you've got plenty of time to turn in a career season.

Let's walk down memory lane, shall we?

April 7, 1986, Tigers vs Red Sox

If you're going to have a game where you give up four home runs, this is the way to do it: on Opening Day, at home, in a game where your team still somehow wins in the end. Dwight Evans went deep as the very first batter of the game, the very first batter of the 1986 season. Not a great start to the year, but you have to tip your cap to a guy who had a mustache game like this:



That's some Tom Selleck-level skill, right there.

With one out in the third, Jim Rice took Morris deep for the second HR. The Tigers clawed back in the third and the fifth innings to take a 4-2 lead, but Morris coughed it up in the seventh by allowing back-to-back home runs to Don Baylor (a pitcher assassin paid to do nothing but hit dingers) and Rich Gedman.

But Kirk Gibson launched a two-run bomb of his own in the bottom of the inning, and the Tigers pulled away with a 6-5 win over the eventual American League Champions.

June 9, 1986, Tigers vs Yankees

The Tigers were not so lucky in this game, ultimately losing 9-7 to Lou Piniella's Yankees. Jack Morris faced Don Mattingly as the second batter of the ballgame, and Donnie Baseball left his mark by leaving the yard. Like Dwight Evans, however, Mattingly gets a mustache pass:



Sexy, right?

He really needs to bring that look back.

The Tigers scored two runs in the bottom of the first and took a 2-1 lead, but Morris gave up back-to-back bombs to Ken Griffey (no, not Junior, his dad -- this was a long time ago) and Ron Hassey. You want to see the Topps cards, right? Of course you do.

 

Just so we're clear, the 1986 Topps set was the best ever made.

Don Mattingly came back for an encore dinger in the third inning, and although the Tigers eventually managed to rally and tie the game at 7-7 in the bottom of the ninth, they lost in the eleventh inning because this was not 1984 anymore, folks.

September 17, 1986, Tigers vs Blue Jays

Much like the Red Sox game that opened the season, the Tigers worked around Jack Morris and his four-dinger day to ultimately win the game 8-6. But it wasn't easy.

Ahead 3-1 in the fourth inning, Morris gave up the first bomb to George "Jorge" Bell. Did Bell have mustache game? You decide:



Jesse Barfield knocked another one in the sixth, but so far these had only been solo shots, so this dinger only tied the game 3-3.

The Tigers lit the Blue Jays up for four runs in the seventh inning, fueled by a three-run shot off the bat of Larry Herndon, so when Jesse Barfield hit his second homer of the game (the third for Morris), it didn't matter as much.

Kelly Gruber struck for a two-run blast in the ninth inning to bring the Blue Jays within two runs, 8-6, and that was the end of Morris's day. Willie Hernandez came in and notched the save, and for the second time in the season, Jack Morris had given up four home runs in a game and still somehow walked away with the pitcher win. 

Forget what I said about the 80s, ok? Pitcher wins are stupid.

So relax, Tigers fans. Even the great pitchers sometimes have awful games where it seems like the opposition knows exactly what's coming, and baseballs are flying out of the park at a maddening rate. Those games can still be won, and those pitchers can still have good seasons, even when you're Jack Morris and having these bad games three times in the same season.


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