05/01/10 6:01 PM ET
Halos hoping to catch Verlander during slide
By Jonathan Mayo / MLB.com
That's what the Tigers are hoping as they send their ace to the mound on Sunday to try and finish off a sweep of the Angels and give Detroit its fifth win in a row.
After taking the first two of this series from last year's American League West champions, the Tigers would love nothing more than to see the Verlander of old on the mound. In his last start, against the Twins, Verlander got the loss and threw 121 pitches in 5 2/3 innings of work, but he also struck out seven, allowed just four hits and gave up only one unearned run. Considering he had yielded 24 hits and 17 earned runs over his first 22 innings (6.95 ERA), it appears like it might be a step in the right direction.
"I'm always somebody who's been able to make adjustments pretty quickly," Verlander said following that last start against the Twins. "We noticed a little something after my last start that was leading to me flying open. Tweaked it a little bit. For the most part, I was able to establish what I wanted to with that mechanical adjustment. There were some situations where I went back to old habit, but for the most part I was right where I wanted to be and definitely happy with the way the ball's coming out of my hand, the way I was throwing the ball besides a handful of pitches."
If this follows the same pattern as a year ago, no one in Detroit will complain. Verlander was similarly battered over his first four starts in 2009, staring at a 9.00 ERA after 21 innings of work. Start No. 5 was seven innings of scoreless ball and Verlander never looked back. After that sluggish four-start kickoff, the right-hander went 19-7 with a 2.92 ERA. He was an All-Star and finished third in the Cy Young Award voting.
"It's funny the way minor things, as you go farther in the game, it's the little things that get amplified," Verlander said. "Very small adjustments, fine-tuning things can throw you off. At this level, when you're just off a little bit like I was, throwing balls like I feel should be away, they're running back to the middle of the plate. Or balls that I feel like should be in, they're running off the plate. At this level, guys are going to take advantage of that."
The Angels hope they can take advantage of any latent Verlander errors that still remain. They've hit him pretty well over the course of his career (He's got a 5.10 ERA in seven starts) and while they lost the game, they did manage four runs over five innings against him back on April 22. Trying to salvage one game from this series might seem more possible given that it will be Jered Weaver on the hill for Los Angeles.
Weaver (3-0, 2.53 ERA) has kicked off his season with five straight quality starts, including a one-run, six-inning outing against the Indians his last time out. He faced the Tigers the day before Verlander pitched, on April 21, and got the no-decision in that one despite allowing just two runs over seven innings. While he's 2-2 with a 6.34 ERA in six starts against the Tigers, he did win his lone start at Comerica Park, back in 2008.
Angels: A change in starting pattern?
While no one is thrilled with a loss, Saturday's defeat may have at least changed a pattern that had plagued Angels starters over the first month of the season.
Before Saturday, Los Angeles' rotation had a 2.48 ERA with a .225 batting average against in the team's 12 wins. In the dozen losses, it's been a very different story: a 7.41 ERA and .340 BAA.
Saturday broke that trend. Scott Kazmir went six strong innings, allowing two runs (just one earned), a sign that things might be different in May, both for the Angels and for Kazmir, who did not pitch particularly well in the season's opening month.
Tigers: Top o' the order to ya
Johnny Damon's walk-off homer on Saturday was just the latest in a long run of production for the Tigers' No. 2 hitter. After his 3-for-5 afternoon, Damon has hit safely in 18 of his past 19 games. He's hit .418 (28-for-67) over that time span with 16 runs scored and nine doubles.
He's also driven in 10 runs during that stretch and a big reason for that might be what Austin Jackson has been doing as the Tigers' leadoff hitter. With a hit in Saturday's game, Jackson has now reached base in 19 straight games. He's hit .383 over that time with 17 runs scored and four stolen bases.
The starting pitcher duality has carried over to the offense. In the Angels' 12 wins, the team has hit .306 with runners in scoring position. In the 13 losses, after Saturday's 2-for-6, they've hit just .204. ... The Tigers' three innings of scoreless relief work is nothing new. Detroit's bullpen has a 1.11 ERA over the past 14 games.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.