Missing targets proves costly for Verlander

Missing targets proves costly for Verlander

Missing targets proves costly for Verlander
TORONTO -- Tigers ace Justin Verlander wasn't at his best Thursday, turning in an ordinary performance, at least by his standards, while surrendering a season-high five runs for just the second time this season.

It was an outing that both Verlander and manager Jim Leyland felt was avoidable had the righty done a better job at hitting his targets.

"I agree with what he said, I think that they had a game plan and they followed that game plan," Leyland said about the Indians, who mounted a seventh-inning rally to defeat the Tigers, 5-3. "Even though they had that game plan, if he locates his pitches where he wants to, he would have been OK. He just didn't make good location, I agree with that.

"You can tell they were just trying to ambush his fastball early, but like he said, if he throws it where he's trying to throw it, they miss it."

Leyland stressed that as good as Verlander is, he will get roughed up from time to time, something that those on the outside can fail to realize based on his usual dominance.

"It's not fair to expect people to do it every single time; you get spoiled," Leyland said about Verlander, who's 11-6 with a 2.60 ERA and 146 strikeouts and is tied for the lowest WHIP in the American League at 0.95.

The 29-year-old has allowed five or more earned runs just four times over the past two seasons, a span of 55 starts. And Thursday night's outing, which was one of them, also saw some other rarities.

Verlander allowed back-to-back homers for just the sixth time in his career, and the first time with both home runs coming on the first pitch of the at-bat.

However, Verlander did log at least six innings for the 63rd consecutive start -- the longest active streak in the Majors. It is the longest streak since Hall of Famer Steve Carlton threw at least six innings in 69 straight games with Philadelphia from 1979-82.

Leyland said from the time Verlander broke in, it was quite evident that he was going to morph into the pitcher he is today.

"He is just so good. One of those kind of guys, they go through some tough times when they first start, but they have such a good stuff, they are going to be successful," the skipper said.

Verlander, coming off a season in which he won the AL Cy Young Award and Most Valuable Player, is the Major League-leader among pitchers in Wins Above Replacement (WAR), per Fangraphs.com at 4.2 and is third since 2006 -- his first full season in the big leagues -- with 36.5 WAR.