DENVER -- The only other time Justin Verlander pitched at hitter-friendly Coors Field, he threw a complete game. The veteran right-hander offered the complete package on Wednesday, as the Tigers took the rubber match from the Rockies with a 6-2 win that Verlander had extra reason to relish.
"Before the game, [catcher James] McCann told me to drive in more than I give up and it would be a good day," Verlander said. "I ended up tying."
The former American League Most Valuable Player, AL Cy Young Award-winner, AL Rookie of the Year, and six-time All-Star not only secured his 183rd big league victory, he also got off a career-long RBI schneid Wednesday, as he plated a run for the first time in 13 big league seasons.
With two outs and runners on first and second, Verlander lofted a bloop to center off Rockies starter Chad Bettis that was just lazy enough to fall short of charging center fielder Charlie Blackmon. McCann raced home with the game's first run, giving the Tigers a 1-0 lead.
Verlander said he had a little fatigue in the back of his right shoulder, but he was confident it was a result of swinging the bat and is nothing to be concerned about.
"I'll take [the fatigue] for an RBI," Verlander said.
Verlander cleared revocable trade waivers earlier this month and has been the subject of trade rumors for much of the season. Despite interest from contending clubs looking to bolster their rotation, USA Today's Bob Nightengale reported Wednesday that it's highly unlikely Verlander will be moved. The deadline to acquire a player and have him eligible for the postseason is Thursday at midnight ET.
Verlander contributed from the mound as well, conducting a master class in pitching at Coors Field. Verlander held the hard-hitting Rockies to one run on three hits and a walk while striking out nine in his six innings on the hill.
"He was pretty good today," McCann said. "Especially [at Coors Field]. We don't play here often, and it's a little bit different. We didn't throw too many curveballs, but his slider was one of the best I've seen from him, as far as a total outing."
Prior to his 380th big league start Wednesday, Verlander was a career 3-for-40 with 20 strikeouts and no RBIs.
"It's not about taking pride in being a good hitter -- I know I'm not a good hitter," Verlander said. "It's taking pride in trying to help the team win. ... It was fun to be in my 12th [full] year and have a first."
Verlander has come on strong as the season hits its home stretch. He is 5-1 with a 2.06 ERA in his last seven starts, striking out 56 in 48 innings, bringing his season record to 10-8 with a 3.82 ERA and he credits a "drastic adjustment" to his slider as the key to his recent success.
"The same slider I was throwing last year this year was a lot harder, 91, 92 [mph]," Verlander said. "I don't know whether it's baseballs or what. A little too firm. It wasn't doing much. I revamped it, went back to a more traditional slider, and since then it's been 85, 86, 88 when I really kind of hump up, but it's been great. I think speed variance gives me some ground balls and also more tendency to swing and miss."
"Even though this year the numbers might not look like numbers that he's had in the past, the stuff is still really good," said Rockies manager Bud Black of Verlander. "The velocity's still there when he needs it, he's got a good, sharp breaking ball and mixes in the change to the left-handed hitters. He can mix in that slower curveball. He's a real pitcher."
His only blemish Wednesday came in the top of the sixth inning. He had retired eight in a row when Charlie Blackmon turned on a curveball and sent it over the center-field wall to notch the Rockies' only run on Verlander's line.
"The curveball was the hardest thing for me to feel like I could control," Verlander said. "It didn't quite have the bite that I wanted. That's what Blackmon ended up hitting out. I thought I could sneak a strike by there, 1-1 and having him not see it all day."
Verlander retired the next three batters in order, ending with a strikeout of Gerardo Parra to finish his day of work. He said he had a little fatigue in the back of his right shoulder, but was confident it was a result of swinging the bat and is nothing to be concerned about.