By Ashley Dunkak
COMERICA PARK (CBS DETROIT) – “Outstanding.” “Excellent.” Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and catcher Alex Avila used those glowing adjectives to describe the pitching repertoire of Justin Verlander on Thursday, when Verlander allowed eight hits, walked four, gave up two homers and ultimately surrendered five earned runs to the Toronto Blue Jays.
The Tigers lost, 7-3, stretching their losing skid to five games. They have lost 13 of their last 17 games since beginning the season on a 27-12 tear. Ausmus and the veteran squad say they are not worried – least of all about Verlander.
“I wouldn’t get too focused on the runs today,” Ausmus said. “His stuff was outstanding, really. That ball dropped changes the whole [fourth] inning. He did give up a couple home runs later [in the sixth], but the inning before that might have been the best inning he’s had all year, so I know the scoreboard doesn’t look great for Ver’s outing, but his stuff was good today.”
Avila said that Verlander simply missed on a couple of pitches but overall looked solid.
“His stuff was excellent,” Avila said. “He was throwing real hard, very sharp breaking ball with the exception of one today. For the most part I thought his last start and today his stuff’s been really good. It’s a matter of a couple of pitches that we didn’t execute that a lot of times when we’re going well, you don’t notice, but when you’re not going so well, they factor in.”
Verlander said he has been working recently on a mechanical adjustment, a tweak he made before the Seattle series. While he said it is working well for him, getting the new motion ingrained in his muscle memory is a process.
“With those mechanical adjustments, sometimes you fall out of whack a little bit,” Verlander said. “Like the leadoff guy [in the sixth], [Adam] Lind, I walked him on four pitches or five pitches and just didn’t quite feel right, and then I go to [Juan] Francisco and hang the change-up a little bit and he put a good swing on it.”
In his last five starts, Verlander has allowed five homers. In that span he has given up 41 hits, 14 walks and 24 runs. The numbers, at least to this point, have not gotten to Verlander.
“I look back to the season after 2008,” Verlander said. “I had horrible stuff in 2008, come back in ’09, and my stuff in April was right where I wanted it to be, but I had a horrible April. I just kept telling myself and I told you guys, ‘It’s going to turn. If I keep pitching this way, it’s going to turn.’ And that’s the way I feel right now.”
Despite the statistics, Verlander seemed excited about how he can perform if he keeps working to make his mechanical adjustment a more consistent part of his delivery.
“I can tell I’m probably throwing a little bit different,” Verlander said. “I’m getting sore in different spots, and that’s probably a really good thing. Getting a little more extension on my fastball. It’s having more life. Talked to Alex today after the game and he said he can tell an obvious difference. It’s much crisper, and everything tends to work off that.”