DETROIT -- Sometimes the best of an Alfredo Simon outing can be judged by his worst pitch, even a 53 mph one.
When the Tigers' right-hander is on, he'll seemingly allow himself one eephus pitch a game. It's usually the second or third time through the lineup. It's more of a timing mechanism for him, usually with little hope of success -- Torii Hunter is the only hitter to chase it this year -- but if he's willing to throw it, it says a lot about his confidence in the rest of his stuff.
So his sixth-inning loft to Rangers batter Shin-Soo Choo during a 4-0 win over the Rangers was probably a good sign about how he felt as he went about his one-hitter. It was the first one he had thrown in a few starts, and it came in the midst of one of the best outings of his career.
"I tried to confuse Choo," Simon admitted. "I played with him in Cincinnati and I kind of know him. I just tried to play with him, and after that just throw a two-seamer outside. I tried to make him think too much."
It didn't work, and Choo took a one-out walk for his trouble. Simon didn't allow another baserunner until Victor Martinez's error with two out in the ninth.
"That's probably the best he's pitched all year, I think," manager Brad Ausmus said after the Tigers' third straight win.
It looked like the way Simon pitched for the first 2 1/2 months of the season, when he looked like a borderline All-Star, before he fell into the summer doldrums that followed him the last 10 starts and suffered the groin injury that impacted him a few starts ago.
He pitched aggressively, but located down in the zone.
"When I threw the ball down, I had a lot of success," he said.
He pitched deceptively, racking up five strikeouts and throwing a fastball that hit 94 mph consistently.
"I threw [the splitter] aggressive like my fastball, and that's when I confuse the hitter," Simon said. "When I throw my split aggressive to home plate, they think it's a fastball, and that's why they missed it a lot today."
He pitched quickly, picking up the pace from the traffic-jam crawl that his last start in Houston became.
"He got the ball, got on the mound and got his next pitch," Ausmus said. "With less dead time, the defense is more into it, in theory. I just thought it was the best game he's thrown, both results and his mound presence."
Said catcher James McCann: "I know when you're feeling good, it's a lot easier to kind of roll, and just keep rolling."
Perhaps most important, he threw with a presence. And as he worked his way through the eighth inning for the third time this season and the seventh time in his career, Ausmus asked him if he wanted the ninth. And for the first time, the former closer with 19 career saves closed out his own start.
"I'm happy," Simon said. "It's been tough the last couple games. Tonight I throw a shutout. I just want to get back to the point I was before, early in the year."
Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.