DETROIT -- Back on May 3, after allowing seven runs to the Indians, Justin Verlander tweeted that he was going to dominate soon. In the following nine starts, he posted a 5-2 record and 2.34 ERA, looking like the Verlander of old.But then the Indians returned Sunday and knocked him
DETROIT -- Back on May 3, after allowing seven runs to the Indians, Justin Verlander tweeted that he was going to dominate soon. In the following nine starts, he posted a 5-2 record and 2.34 ERA, looking like the Verlander of old.
But then the Indians returned Sunday and knocked him around again. Verlander gave up eight earned runs over 4 2/3 innings in a 9-3 loss, capping a third Tribe sweep of the Tigers this season. The Indians hit four home runs off Verlander in the fifth inning, making Verlander the first Tigers pitcher to give up four homers in a single inning, according to STATS, LLC.
"It bothers me because I work so hard, and then have a clunker like this is the theme of the season, and for me particularly," Verlander said. "If you take away three really bad starts, everything else has been really good. I need to find a way to limit those few clunkers, make them four runs and keep us in the game. Today was obviously horrible."
Of the four Indians home runs in the fifth inning, three came on offspeed pitches, and the other was a slider. All were right over the heart of the plate. The first was a curveball on the first pitch of the inning to Juan Uribe. The next was a changeup to Tyler Naquin two pitches later. Mike Napoli also homered on the first pitch to him, the slider.
It wasn't the fastball that was the problem, but Verlander thought his pitch sequencing was fine.
"I don't think it was the sequencing as much as the execution," he said.
The inning prior, Verlander had thrown 30 pitches in hot weather and battled to limit the damage to two runs in the fourth. Did that affect him in the fifth?
"I was pretty tired, yeah," he said. "I don't know if that affected my pitching, but I know I was completely soaked after that inning."
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said he didn't think about taking Verlander out before the fourth home run, noting Verlander gets a longer leash with his track record. But it didn't pay off.
It was the second time in Verlander's career he allowed four home runs in a start, the other coming on Sept. 18, 2007, against the Indians in Cleveland.
After years in which the Tigers had the upper hand over their rivals, it's flipped in a big way this season. Cleveland is 9-0 against Detroit, outscoring the Tigers, 60-20.
What was a three-game deficit in the standings turned to seven games in the span of a few days.
"They had a couple outstanding outings by a couple of starters," Ausmus said. "Just right now, they have our number. No other way to explain it."
Asked if he felt he needed to say anything to the team after the sweep, Ausmus said, "If I did, it'd be between me and the team."
When Verlander was asked if something needed to be said, he put the blame for the sweep on the team's execution.
"We're all professionals here," Verlander said. "We know what we need to do."
Chris Vannini is a contributor to MLB.com based in Detroit and covered the Tigers on Sunday.