DETROIT -- Justin Verlander proclaimed earlier this season he'd be back dominating. He said nothing about award-winning, but after his July performance, he picked up some recognition for the first time in a long while.Not since September 2012, the season he fell just shy of his second consecutive Cy Young
DETROIT -- Justin Verlander proclaimed earlier this season he'd be back dominating. He said nothing about award-winning, but after his July performance, he picked up some recognition for the first time in a long while.
Not since September 2012, the season he fell just shy of his second consecutive Cy Young Award, had Verlander won American League Pitcher of the Month honors. After four wins in six stingy starts this past month, he earned the award, beating out a large field of competitors for the honor.
Verlander went 4-0 with a 1.69 ERA for the month, allowing just 26 hits and 12 walks over 42 2/3 innings. He struck out 48, his highest total since the final month of 2013. Yet the totals don't completely document the resurgence.
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Verlander tossed at least seven innings in four of his six starts, capped by an 11-strikeout complete-game victory over the Astros July 30 after taking a shutout bid into the ninth. He fanned 10 Royals over seven innings July 15, then allowed just two hits over eight innings of one-run ball with nine strikeouts against the Twins five days later.
The pitches behind the performance ranged from an upper-90s fastball reminiscent of his early years to a biting curveball and sharp slider. He didn't have them all in every outing, but he made them work together.
"A little bit of everything from start to start," Verlander said. "Sometimes it was location. Sometimes it was curveball or slider or changeup. Can't really put a finger on it. It just felt like I had a good month with good feel, just took the ball every time I was called upon and went out there and tried to keep our guys in the game. You look back at the body of work this month and yeah, it was pretty good."
All four of Verlander's wins were decided by two runs or fewer. The Tigers didn't score more than four runs in any of his starts. His impact was tangible.
"Really, it's been about a year now, where he's been really good," manager Brad Ausmus said. "And there were some changes along the way -- a little bit of an arm-slot change, a little bit of a change in his slider, a little bit of change in the preparation. I did look at the numbers a few weeks ago. His numbers since, I wanna say since Boston in Boston last year, are outstanding."
Verlander has won five AL Pitcher of the Month awards in his career. Among the pitchers Verlander beat out for this one are former teammate Rick Porcello, who went 5-0 with a 2.57 ERA for the Red Sox, new Minnesota Twin Héctor Santiago, Chicago's José Quintana, Orioles closer Zach Britton, Toronto's J.A. Happ and Aaron Sanchez.
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.