The Detroit Tigers have fallen on hard times in the month of August, dropping out of first place and losing starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez and reliever Joakim Soria to the DL. The Tigers are currently trailing the Kansas City Royals by 2.5 games in the AL Central and the Seattle Mariners by a half game for the second AL Wild Card spot. It has now become more important than ever for former ace Justin Verlander to step up and help lead his team to their fourth consecutive playoff berth.
At 11-11 with a 4.82 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP, Verlander is easily having his worst season since the Tigers’ ill-fated 2008 campaign. Many wondered what was wrong with him last season when he posted a 13-12 record with a respectable 3.46 ERA and a 1.32 WHIP before finally returning to his dominant form in the 2013 postseason.
Verlander, of course, underwent core muscle repair surgery in January of this year, but considering the fact that he allowed nary a run and recorded 17 strikeouts in 20 innings of work in Spring Training of this season, many were expecting big things from Verlander coming into the 2014 campaign.
Verlander may have started out the season on a positive note, going 3-1 with a 2.48 ERA in March/April, but he has essentially been struggling ever since the calendar turned to May. His second best month has been July, when he posted a 3-2 record and a whopping 4.78 ERA.
Verlander recently had a bit of a scare on Aug. 11, coming out of the game with shoulder soreness after allowing four earned runs in one inning of work against the Pittsburgh Pirates. He returned to the mound on Aug. 23, however, going 5.2 innings against the Minnesota Twins while allowing four earned runs and striking out six for the win. While he wasn’t necessarily great in Minnesota, it at least gives him something relatively positive to build off of. His next start is scheduled to be Friday against the Chicago White Sox.
With Sanchez now out for possibly the remainder of the season and a big question mark surrounding who the team’s No. 5 starter will be if Kyle Lobstein struggles, it is imperative that Verlander starts stringing together a series of quality starts for the Tigers. It might be a tall order considering that he clearly has not been himself for most of the season, but his team really needs him right now.