Wins and losses for pitchers are largely lineup dependent, and being a hard-luck loser from time to time is a fate that not even something that Justin Verlander can avoid.
Coincidentally enough, this was also the point last season where he’d recorded his first loss of 2012, but unlike the two runs of support he got from his teammates then, they weren’t quite as generous this time as the team was shut out by C.C. Sabathia and company en route to a 7-0 loss.
Still, it isn’t as though Verlander didn’t do his job. The righty wasn’t his typical self in his in five-inning 2013 debut in the cold Minnesota weather, and gutting things out was just what the ace had to the do against the New York, especially falling behind in the second inning after allowing a RBI double to Francisco Cervelli and a two-run homer to Jayson Nix.
Those are two players that typically shouldn’t have any business doing what they did to Verlander, and that it happened seemed to turn on a switch in the ace, as Verlander allowed just one baserunner to reach scoring position over his next 5.1 innings, exchanging zeroes with Sabathia and turning the game back into the pitcher’s duel that most had looked forward to.
That said, it hasn’t be quite the league-best dominance that Tigers fans have gotten used to from the game’s highest-paid pitcher, and considering that Verlander started his 2012 with a pair of eight-inning outings with a complete game in the third, you get the sense that perhaps something is being held back a little here.
Most notably, the hurler isn’t throwing the ball as hard as expected, averaging just 90.9 mph on his fastball through his first two outings. Is he simply not exerting himself while focusing on elements on his game? Verlander has been best known for his ability to dial it up to triple digits late in games when needed, and that’s something that the team has yet to see this season.
Perhaps it hasn’t been necessary, and two starts are hardly enough of a sample size to worry about, considering that folks like Max Scherzer, Felix Hernandez, and Zack Greinke have all seen the same dip in their first outings.
With large contracts come high expectations, however, and while Verlander hasn’t exactly been poor, one of his signature dominating performances will go a long way to allaying any such potential worries going forward.