Last month, Detroit Tigers star pitcher Justin Verlander went through a rather rough stretch, but he was able to finish May on a high note when he beat the Seattle Mariners for his sixth win of the season last Friday. This afternoon Verlander had a chance to continue moving in the right direction, but he regressed instead.
The Tigers turned to Verlander today with the hope that he would help the team end a four-game losing streak and avoid being swept by the Toronto Blue Jays, but it was to no avail. Although he was rather sharp through the first three innings, the wheels began to fall off during the fourth when the Blue Jays put up a three-run inning. It should be noted, though, that right fielder Torii Hunter made a big error in that inning as well.
The Tigers would eventually lose the contest by a score of 7-3, and Verlander would finish the day with a line of seven innings pitched, eight hits, five earned runs, four walks and four strikeouts. Two of the eight hits were home runs. After today, Verlander is now 6-5 on the season with a 4.19 ERA and a 1.47 WHIP. Given Verlander’s competitive nature, there is no way that he, or the Tigers for that matter, can possibly be happy with those numbers.
In contrast to some of his earlier rough outings, however, there was nothing wrong with Verlander’s velocity today as he was able to touch the mid-to-upper 90s. Whatever his issue is, though, he needs to get it figured out rather quickly.
Fans have understandably been worried about Verlander in recent months. From 2009-12, the Tigers’ ace went 78-31 with a 2.95 ERA and threw 17 complete games, including a no-hitter in 2011. He was also averaging 244 strikeouts per season. However, Verlander only went 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA in 2013, and he threw zero complete games the entire season. Teammates Max Scherzer and Anibal Sanchez ended up putting together much better seasons, causing some to claim that Verlander had lost the title of the Tigers’ ace. Scherzer, of course, took home the AL Cy Young award last season, and Sanchez posted an AL-best 2.57 ERA.
Verlander did show shades of his former self in the 2013 postseason, but he stirred the anxiety of fans once again in January of 2014 when it was announced that he had undergone core muscle repair surgery.
Although things went exceptionally well for him in Spring Training of this year and he had a rather strong start to the regular season, some fans began wondering if the Verlander of old would ever show up again after he was knocked around in May and his fastball showed a noticeable decline in velocity. Some may have looked to his outing against the Mariners last Friday as a beacon of hope, but fans are likely going to be concerned about him once again after today’s shellacking.
At any rate, the Tigers are going to need to get more out of Verlander going forward. Yes, they have Sanchez, Scherzer and Rick Porcello in their rotation, but the organization has too much money invested in Verlander to see him fall apart. It is time for him to start giving the Tigers more quality outings.