Everyone done panicking over Justin Verlander yet?
Between his terrible performance in the All-Star Game and the rumors flying around about Kate Upton, last week was one of the first times that Tigers fans actually seemed worried about their ace. Where was his head? Was Upton going to be the next Yoko Ono? Had his All-Star performance uncovered some previously hidden flaw?
Eight innings, three hits, zero runs, two walks, eight strikeouts.
The Orioles found out Sunday what calm observers had suspected all along. Justin Verlander is just fine. His All-Star performance came because he didn’t take it seriously. He didn’t retreat into a quiet part of the clubhouse with his headphones to maintain maximum focus before the game — he hung out with the other All Stars and enjoyed the experience. He didn’t throw 92-mph fastballs in the first inning, he threw 101 and gave the fans something to ooh and ahh over.
He enjoyed himself, he gave everyone a show, and he didn’t worry about the results. That’s not what he normally does, and he showed on Sunday that he’s just as good as ever when the games mean something.
So everyone can relax, watch a fun four-game series with the Angels, and then settle in for the big one this weekend against the White Sox.
Monday: No game. Prince Fielder takes advantage of his day off by drowning several baseballs in the Kauffman Stadium fountains.
Tuesday: All-Star Game. Didn’t go well.
Wednesday: No game. The worst day in American sports. People were lost, confused and forced to watch the Tour de France.
Thursday: No game. It was really getting ugly now. In a desperate attempt to do something sports-related, the most-addicted fans started Fantasy Olympic drafts. (I got Missy Franklin and the women’s basketball team in the first two rounds.)
Friday: Tigers 7, Orioles 2. Doug Fister looks like the 2011 Doug Fister, allowing one run on seven hits, and Jhonny Peralta hits a big three-run homer. Key developments for the second half or one-game flukes?
Saturday: Orioles 8, Tigers 6 (13 innings). Jose Valverde blows an 11th-inning save, leading to Twitter exploding in calls for Joaquin Benoit to become the closer. A half-hour later, Benoit blows a 13th-inning save in spectacular fashion. Phil Coke, anyone?
Sunday: Tigers 4, Orioles 0. Verlander is dominant in his first game after the break. Austin Jackson homers — he should have been an All-Star — and Miguel Cabrera hits his second in three days. He’s hitting .330 with 20 homers and 73 RBIs in mid-July. Best Tigers hitter since Hank Greenberg.
Prince Fielder: Hit .333 in Baltimore with a double and a walk, which isn’t much to write home about, but he gets this spot for his assault on Kansas City Monday night.
Justin Verlander: If you don’t know why, you weren’t paying attention earlier.
Jose Valverde: His ERA is over 4, he’s walking almost five batters per nine innings and he’s not striking guys out like he did in the past. Last year, his struggles in non-save situations were amusing, but now it is becoming a problem for a team that can’t afford to give away leads at the moment.
Ryan Raburn: The great late-season hitter is batting .100 since the clock officially moved into the second half of the season. He’s quickly running out of time to salvage his career in Detroit.
Monday: Angels (Ervin Santana) at Tigers (Rick Porcello), 7:05 p.m.
Tuesday: Angels (TBA) at Tigers (Jacob Turner), 7:05 p.m.
Wednesday: Angels (C.J. Wilson) at Tigers (Doug Fister), 7:05 p.m.
Thursday: Angels (Jerome Williams) at Tigers (Max Scherzer), 1:05 p.m.
Friday: White Sox (Chris Sale) at Tigers (Justin Verlander), 7:05 p.m.
Saturday: White Sox (Gavin Floyd) at Tigers (Porcello), 4:05 p.m.
Sunday: White Sox (TBA) at Tigers (Jacob Turner), 1:05 p.m.