Verlander walks into trouble against Angels

Tigers righty issues five free passes and two homers in six-plus frames

Verlander walks into trouble against Angels

ANAHEIM -- Control issues popped up again for Justin Verlander on Sunday, as the veteran right-hander walked five batters for the second time in a five-start span in Detroit's 4-1 loss to the Angels. He previously issued six free passes on April 21 against the Twins. Before this season, Verlander had logged just 10 five-walk outings in his 12-year career.

Though none of the batters he walked scored, the frequent grinding at-bats meant that Verlander had already thrown 101 pitches when he headed to the mound for the seventh inning with Detroit down, 2-1. He quickly gave up another run via three singles on five pitches to Juan Graterol, Ben Revere and Andrelton Simmons before getting pulled with Mike Trout due up.

A sacrifice fly by Trout off Shane Greene deepened the deficit to three runs and the eventual final score. All in all, Detroit's ace was tagged for four earned runs in six-plus innings with five hits, five walks and seven strikeouts, raising his ERA to 4.47.

"He'd get the first two outs of the inning and had trouble getting the third out at times," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. "Walks were a part of that. … [But] I'm not worried about Justin Verlander being able to finish off innings."

Verlander's walk rate of 4.7 BB/9 this year is a career high by a wide margin. His worst mark over a full season is 3.9 BB/9, in 2008 when he led the Majors with 17 losses.

"I gotta cut down on walks, that's the main thing," Verlander said. "I gotta find a consistent release point. I looked at some video after I came out, and think found something that'll help that. But I still have to do a better job."

Sunday also marked just the second game in which Verlander has allowed a home run in 2017, as he gave up a pair of two-out solo shots to Trout and Danny Espinosa. In the other, he gave up three homers in an April loss to Cleveland.

"Trouty's home run was big, for us to answer right back in the bottom of the first," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia. "We faced a really tough pitcher, Verlander. If you let him get rolling, he can stay on top of you."

The loss was a tough one for the Tigers to swallow, as it locked in their West Coast road trip record at 4-5 and prolonged a streak of not winning a series at Angel Stadium since 2009.

But Verlander's teammates didn't fault him for this loss, and echoed the unbridled confidence their manager has in him.

"Yeah, if you take away those walks, he gets deeper in the game -- that's not rocket science," said catcher James McCann. "[But] he gave us a chance to win. We were in the ballgame the entire way. Unfortunately, we couldn't come up with any offense ourselves."

Will Laws is a contributor to MLB.com based in Los Angeles. He covered the Tigers on Sunday. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.