Justin Verlander began to return to his usual self last night with the game-winning performance in a 4-3 victory for the Detroit Tigers over the Arizona Diamondbacks.
After Monday’s effort, the starting pitcher cut his season ERA down to 4.84 to draw level with his worst full MLB season – back in 2008.
Despite Verlander turning a small corner, he still has a long way to go before returning back to his 2011 Triple Crown form. The pitcher has been named an All-Star six times as well as pitching two no-hitters in his career.
Noticing a change
The 31-year-old had noticed something had changed.
Speaking to MLB.com, he explained: “I went out and tried to throw the way that I used to throw and immediately when I got on the mound to throw my bullpen to warm up, I was able to locate the way that I felt that I should.”
If that was what it took for Verlander to return to his best, then it was one step on the journey back to his previous unplayable best.
Verlander threw out 6 2/3 innings, conceding three runs and took five strikeouts for a game-winning effort. The right-hander is now 9-8 this season for the Tigers.
The right-hander was fizzing in low 90mph fastballs as the pitcher began to take apart the D-backs. The Tigers batters also made a quality start to lead 3-0 by the end of the third inning.
Up against Vidal Nuno, who was making his third start for Arizona after moving from the New York Yankees, the Tigers smashed two big hits.
Right fielder Torii Hunter walloped a two-run homer into the left-field stands and shortly after Austin Jackson repeated the feat with a solo homer.
Arizona, who have struggled this season with a 43-57 season record, made a brief comeback with a pair of runs in the fourth ground out by Aaron Hill and Paul Goldschmidt.
Then, in the sixth inning, Gerardo Parra fired a homer with a line drive to right field.
The game stayed level for just a few minutes when Austin Jackson made it home at the top of the seventh.
Jackson doubled which enabled Miguel Cabrera to step up. Cabrera smashed a line drive up to centre field but the ball dropped off the railing in the concourse and back into play.
Cabrera was slow out of the blocks and run out at second base but Jackson was already safely home.
Detroit Tigers (55-41) took the opener in the three-game series and extended their lead at the top of the American League Central division to six and half games after Cleveland lost at Minnesota.