DETROIT -- In the end, the April showers for Justin Verlander weren't all that gloomy. Considering the way he started the season, they could've been a lot worse.With 6 1/3 quality innings on Wednesday night in a 9-4 Tigers win over the A's, Verlander not only outpitched Sonny Gray, who
DETROIT -- In the end, the April showers for Justin Verlander weren't all that gloomy. Considering the way he started the season, they could've been a lot worse.
With 6 1/3 quality innings on Wednesday night in a 9-4 Tigers win over the A's, Verlander not only outpitched Sonny Gray, who was out after two rough innings, but also outpitched his early-season blues.
Verlander will take a 2-2 record and a 5.46 ERA into May, historically his strongest month of the season. When Verlander has been at his best, May is usually the time of year that form emerges. Injuries that cost him the first two months of last season affected his schedule.
"He has really only had one bad start," manager Brad Ausmus said of Verlander this season. "He has only had one bad start since the end of last July. And he was good today."
Verlander, staked to a 4-0 lead by the time he took the mound for the second inning, retired the A's in order in each of the first two innings, and he didn't allow a hit until Marcus Semien singled with one out in the third. Verlander loaded the bases that inning, but he kept them loaded by striking out Chris Coghlan on back-to-back checked swings for the second out, then getting a flyout to center from Josh Reddick.
Khris Davis broke the spell with a tape-measure home run to left-center field that was projected by Statcast™ to land 449 feet from the plate and nearly landed on the concourse in front of the Al Kaline statue.
"I think I put it right in his wheelhouse," Verlander said of Davis, "and he hit it about as well as you can hit it. That ball went a long way."
Verlander retired nine in a row from there, with only one ball finding its way out of the infield. The right-hander began his third trip through the A's batting order by changing speeds and mixing in changeups, curveballs and sliders, the pitches opponents had shrugged off at times earlier this month.
"You've got a 5-1 lead, nobody on base -- I wanted to start establishing some of my offspeed stuff a little better for strikes," Verlander said. "It wasn't quite consistent enough early in the game, so I wanted to get a feel for it."
Verlander made it through the middle of the order in the sixth unscathed, striking out Coghlan again on back-to-back sliders before Reddick and Davis grounded out. A long wait as the Tigers scored three runs in the bottom half of the inning helped cool off Verlander in the seventh, costing him a couple of runs, but it made little difference.
"For me, I think the only thing I would've liked to do is go a little deeper into the game, have a little better seventh," Verlander said. "But overall, it was a pretty good game. Hopefully, when the weather warms up, things are a little bit easier. If Mother Nature would hurry up, that would be nice."
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002.
Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.