Billed as a stellar matchup of marquee superstar pitchers -- Verlander for Detroit and Texas' supernova Yu Darvish -- the opener of a four-game series between division leaders didn't exactly unfold according to expectations.
Torpedoed by the Rangers' seven-run third, Verlander failed to complete at least three innings for only the fourth time in his career. Darvish wasn't his sharpest either, but as has become the norm when he's on the mound, the Texas bats boomed and the Rangers stormed to a 10-4 victory at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
"It was one of those games where everyone in the world was looking for the matchup and it didn't work out so good," manager Jim Leyland said. "I don't think anyone expected 12 runs to be scored with those two guys out there. These things happen."
They just don't usually happen with Verlander on the mound.
"I'm not going to go home and pout about this," said Verlander, who lost his second straight start. "I'm going to figure this out -- and fast."
Darvish, who threw a career-high 130 pitches over eight innings, lifted his record to 7-1.
Verlander's performance was littered with unexplainable lowlights. It was only the sixth time he's coughed up eight or more runs in 241 career starts, the last time coming Aug. 28 last season in a 9-8 loss to the Royals. On 160 previous bases-loaded occasions, Verlander had issued only three walks to force in runs. He did it twice in the same inning Thursday night.
"I just had too many poorly executed pitches," Verlander said. "Something's not right, and it's consistency in repeating my delivery. It helps knowing that I'm someone who can turn things around quickly."
The Rangers were delighted to take advantage of Verlander's unusual off-night.
"Verlander was a little wild in the third inning and we didn't chase him outside the zone," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We made him come into the zone. He didn't have command of his fastball and we didn't chase it. I've never seen him not being able to command that fastball."
What made the spectacle even more garish was Verlander's previous exceptional work against the offensively talented Rangers over the years, and particularly in the Texas ballpark.
The big right-hander, who was honored with both the American League MVP and Cy Young Awards in 2011, came in with a 7-2 record and 2.02 ERA in 11 starts against Texas. He had been even better in the Lone Star State, posting a 3-0 mark and 1.29 ERA in four starts at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington.
When he strolled to the mound for the bottom of the third, Verlander was already protecting a 3-1 lead, built on Don Kelly's leadoff home run and sacrifice flies by Torii Hunter and Victor Martinez as Darvish labored through a 36-pitch third inning.
Besides two bases-loaded walks, the real pain came on a two-run double by Mitch Moreland on an 0-2 pitch and a three-run home run by Geovany Soto to cap the inning.
"He made a horrible pitch to Moreland," Leyland said. "That was the killer pitch. He left a slider right there, up, when it was no ball and two strikes.
"The positive out of this game is that I won't have to hear anymore about his velocity. He threw two 99-mph fastballs. We don't have to worry about whether he's got the velocity or not."
In fact, Verlander made a point of saying that he is completely healthy, that he should have done what Darvish did and pitched out of trouble in the third and that he knows exactly where to find the answers to his troubles.
"It's going to be in the bullpen," Verlander said. "I think I've been tinkering a little too much. It's time to get back to basics."
"It's not easy to sit here and digest. I've been spoiled the last couple of years by being in pretty good sync with my delivery. I know one thing: I'll get it back and I'll get it back in a hurry."