By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – Whether the goal is to buy a house or pitch well against the Boston Red Sox, the secret to success is the same.
Location, location, location.
Detroit Tigers starter Justin Verlander has struggled lately with that fundamental aspect, most recently giving up four runs on seven hits and three walks Sunday.
“The command’s definitely not there,” Verlander said. “It’s one of those things where you’ve just got to find it, and when it clicks, it clicks. Don’t try to press too much, just go out there and do the work that I know has made me the pitcher that I am. Once it’s there, it’s there.”
Detroit manager Jim Leyland said Verlander’s curveball looked in sync occasionally but appeared to be overthrown other times. He said sometimes a lack of command of the fastball causes other problems for a pitcher but that Sunday it came down to missing spots.
“He continues to have command issues,” Leyland said. “None of the repertoire was really getting where he wanted it to go. Sometimes you don’t command your fastball, which leads to other things, but today he really didn’t have command of any of his pitches.”
Verlander lasted five innings Sunday, the sixth time in 16 starts he has gone five or fewer. That is triple the number of shorter starts (fewer than six innings) than Verlander had all of last season – just two in 33 outings.
So far Verlander has not once lasted more than seven and one-third innings. In 2012, he went eight or nine innings in eight of his first 16 starts.
His ERA sits at 3.90, the second-highest it has ever been through 16 starts in eight full seasons. Through the same span in 2010, it was 4.02. The past two seasons, Verlander’s ERA hovered right around 2.50 near the end of June.
That recent standard is why fans are buzzing about whether Verlander’s best years are behind him, but neither Verlander nor Leyland is worried about the overall effectiveness of the hurler’s pitching.
“The stuff’s there,” Verlander said. “It’s just all location, really. Leaving a lot of stuff over the middle of the plate, whether it be to put guys away early in the count or whatever it is. I think that’s why I haven’t been going too deep into games because a lot of stuff over the middle of the plate gives a lot of guys gives a lot of guys the opportunity to foul stuff off instead of striking out or give me a weak ground ball or whatever it may be. I think it all comes down to location.”
Leyland said he cannot put his finger on what the issue is but has a standard procedure the Tigers will go through to help Verlander figure it out.
“You go back to the drawing board, and you look at your tapes, you work at your bullpen,” Leyland said. “You do all the things that we always do to try to see if there’s something that we’re missing.
“I would be concerned if he were sore or if his stuff wasn’t good,” Leyland added, “but that’s not the case, so that’s two-thirds of the battle right there.”