After winning a Major League Baseball-best 24 games (24-5), along with the American League MVP and 2011 Cy Young, Verlander was viewed as the most-dominant right-hander — maybe even pitcher, in general — in the game.
Verlander, though, hasn’t been as sharp in his latest outings. His average performances may be a greater sign, signifying that the Tigers just aren’t together as a whole as they approach the dog days of summer.
Now 5-4 with a with an earned-run average of 2.69 (stats accurate when published Saturday, June 9), Verlander has appeared to have lost a step from a year ago — at least for the time being. However, while he may be struggling to find his inner Cy Young-like abilities, he’s still among MLB leaders in strikeouts. He struck out nine Saturday in Detroit’s 3-2 win over the Cincinnati Reds.
He’s still among league leaders in opponent batting average and WHIP (.203 BA, 0.97 WHIP entering Saturday).
Verlander may be just a bit off right now. He’s given up six or more hits in his past four starts, including a nine- and 10-hit showing in losses to the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox — but he hasn’t fallen off completely. Every pitcher goes through a slump. Tigers followers have been spoiled by Verlander’s stellar pitching and if this is his slump, there is no real need to fret.
Saturday, Verlander faced Reds slugger Jay Bruce, who was looking to make contact with the bases loaded. Verlander had just walked Reds secondbaseman Brandon Phillips during a 12-pitch battle to fill the bags.
Bruce, a lefty, battled Verlander with two outs during the six-pitch at-bat, only to strikeout to end the fifth inning.
A great pitcher has the solution to problems. And Verlander showed that, getting Bruce to swing — and keeping the score knotted at 2-2. Verlander didn’t get the win Saturday, reliever Brayan Villareal was awarded the victory, but his pitching helped the Tigers stay competitive.
Verlander at the plate…
The Tigers’ ace hadn’t had a successful sacrifice bunt in nearly two years (June 27, 2010). However, he was able to advance runners to second and third in the top of fifth. With two outs, Verlander dropped a well-placed bunt, but the Tigers failed to plate a run — nothing better than seeing an AL pitcher be an effective hitter during inter-league play.
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