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Quality offspeed offerings inspire Verlander

Tigers righty settled in for four innings before allowing six runs in fifth

DETROIT -- For four innings Sunday afternoon, the Tigers caught a glimpse of what Justin Verlander can be. His fastball comfortably reached the mid-90s, and his offspeed pitches -- the slider and curveball -- kept the Blue Jays off balance.

Then came the fifth inning, during which Toronto unloaded for six runs on five hits off the right-hander, setting the tone in Detroit's 10-5 loss and dropping the Tigers to 0-4 in games started by Verlander this year.

Verlander lasted five innings -- throwing 94 pitches and allowing seven earned runs -- but he blamed two specific offerings with runners on base in the fifth for his poor performance.

The first was a fastball to Devon Travis on a 1-2 count that the pitcher left over the plate. Then came an 0-2 curveball to Josh Donaldson that hung instead of breaking into the dirt. Both, Verlander said, were a result of him falling off the mound too early when pitching out of the stretch, which caused him to yank some pitches.

Video: [email protected]: Travis extends Blue Jays' lead with double

"The last big hurdle to get over is finding my rhythm when I get out of the stretch," Verlander said. "Today, that was obviously a glaring fault."

Verlander had two-strike counts on three of the first four batters who reached in the fifth, including a leadoff walk to Danny Valencia despite being ahead, 0-2.

Verlander remained optimistic, though, pointing to his curveball, slider and ability to hit the mid-90s consistently as indications that his rough outing doesn't indicate a decline in talent.

"I was seeing reactions from hitters that I haven't seen in a while on my offspeed stuff, and I felt really good about it," Verlander said. "I think you look at my stuff, and it's better than it's been since probably a couple of years ago. Now it's just fine-tuning it."

Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for Follow him on Twitter @ByAZuniga.
Read More: Detroit Tigers, Justin Verlander