Tigers righty settled in for four innings before allowing six runs in fifth
By Alejandro Zúñiga
DETROIT -- For four innings Sunday afternoon, the Tigers caught a glimpse of what Justin Verlander can be. His fastball comfortably reached the mid-90s, and his offspeed pitches -- the slider and curveball -- kept the Blue Jays off balance.
Then came the fifth inning, during which Toronto unloaded for six runs on five hits off the right-hander, setting the tone in Detroit's 10-5 loss and dropping the Tigers to 0-4 in games started by Verlander this year.
Verlander lasted five innings -- throwing 94 pitches and allowing seven earned runs -- but he blamed two specific offerings with runners on base in the fifth for his poor performance.
The first was a fastball to Devon Travis on a 1-2 count that the pitcher left over the plate. Then came an 0-2 curveball to Josh Donaldson that hung instead of breaking into the dirt. Both, Verlander said, were a result of him falling off the mound too early when pitching out of the stretch, which caused him to yank some pitches.
"The last big hurdle to get over is finding my rhythm when I get out of the stretch," Verlander said. "Today, that was obviously a glaring fault."
Verlander had two-strike counts on three of the first four batters who reached in the fifth, including a leadoff walk to Danny Valencia despite being ahead, 0-2.
Verlander remained optimistic, though, pointing to his curveball, slider and ability to hit the mid-90s consistently as indications that his rough outing doesn't indicate a decline in talent.
"I was seeing reactions from hitters that I haven't seen in a while on my offspeed stuff, and I felt really good about it," Verlander said. "I think you look at my stuff, and it's better than it's been since probably a couple of years ago. Now it's just fine-tuning it."
Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByAZuniga. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.