Verlander limits hits, but gets hurt by homers

Tigers right-hander yields 3 solo jacks in loss to Royals

Verlander limits hits, but gets hurt by homers

DETROIT -- Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander has given up three homers in a game seven times in his career. None of the other six were quite like Tuesday night's 6-1 loss to the Royals.

Verlander came out to pitch the eighth inning with a three-hit performance going. All three hits were solo home runs. They saddled Verlander with three runs allowed for the first time since June 26, when the Indians roughed him up.

The only hit Verlander yielded against the Royals that stayed inside Comerica Park was his last, an Alcides Escobar single in the eighth.

"There's an old saying: Solo homers don't hurt you," Verlander said. "That wasn't necessarily the case today."

And that's why, when asked about the pitches that were his undoing, Verlander could recite the home-run balls to the letter.

"One was a slider," Verlander said, "one was a backup slider, and one was a fastball."

The slider has been a love-hate relationship for Verlander this season. Its emergence as a solid out pitch helped him rattle off one stingy outing after another over the past six weeks. Hitters had mustered a mere .153 average and a .212 slugging percentage on his slider entering Tuesday, according to STATS, Verlander's best numbers with it since at least 2010. He also has been using it more than in any previous season, according to Fangraphs.

Verlander threw 16 sliders on Tuesday, more than any of his other secondary pitches, but gave up two home runs. One was a pitch over the plate that Raul Mondesi pummeled, sending it out on a line to right for his first Major League home run in the third.

Verlander had retired Kansas City's first eight hitters before that blast. Mondesi's drive ended any notion of a potential no-hit bid, but didn't end the stinginess. Verlander retired his next six batters before falling behind Alex Gordon with two out in the fifth.

Gordon has struck out 30 times in his career against Verlander, more than any other active Major League hitter against an active pitcher. When Gordon got ahead in the count, he didn't miss the 3-1 slider, sending it out to right.

Verlander gathered himself once more and found his rhythm again, retiring five in a row and taking a 2-1 deficit into the seventh. He had an 0-2 count on Eric Hosmer when he left a fastball in a spot where Hosmer could drive it. It was the first home run Verlander had allowed on an 0-2 pitch since Sept. 8, 2014, when Royals outfielder Lorenzo Cain hit an inside-the-park home run against him.

"I'll take my chances giving up four hits," Verlander said. "It just so happened the mistakes I made got hit hard and they got hit into the seats. It happens sometimes, and I felt like I only made like three mistakes before walking Mondesi in the eighth. But, the mistakes I did make got hit. It was just that type of game."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. 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.