For all of those Tigers fans worried about Justin Verlander’s All-Star Game start, you can relax now.
Verlander (10-5), who gave up five runs in one inning of work in the All-Star Game, was back to his usual self Sunday, leading the Tigers (46-43) to a 4-0 victory and a series win over the Baltimore Orioles.
Take away noted Tigers killer Jim Thome and Verlander allowed one hit in his eight innings of work. Thome had a single and double, improving to 14-for-52 lifetime against Verlander. Seven of those hits are home runs.
Mark Reynolds had the only other Orioles hit off Verlander in the seventh inning, breaking up Verlander’s streak of 13 retired in a row.
After Saturday night’s 13-inning loss in which they used seven relievers, Verlander wanted to give the bullpen a break.
“That was kind of my game plan going in, especially early, try to make it deep in the game,” Verlander told FOX Sports Detroit’s Ryan Field on the postgame show. “Because I know, obviously I was watching the game (Saturday) night and I know what occurred and we didn’t have a lot of guys that probably felt too good down there, trying to keep as many guys out of the game as possible.”
Of Verlander’s 117 pitches, 74 were strikes.
Verlander also improved to 7-0 with a 2.71 ERA lifetime against the Orioles in 10 starts.
Unlike in the All-Star Game, Verlander did not reach his top velocity until the eighth inning, when he got up to 97-98 miles an hour on his fastball. Prior to that, Verlander was up to 96. According to MLB.com’s Gameday, Verlander never hit 100 miles an hour.
Of course, Verlander didn’t need to throw 100 against the Orioles.
In the All-Star Game, Verlander was trying to put on a show for the fans. On Sunday, Verlander was trying to do what he normally does — win the game using all of his pitches.
“He just started getting some quicker outs as the game went on and he had them all going, good curveball, located his fastball well, had a little extra if he needed it,” manager Jim Leyland told Field. “He was in total command. And I knew he would be, particularly after the All-Star break.
“I think after the All-Star Game, he made a good point. The fans want to see him throw it 100, he threw it 100. But today he pitched like he can pitch and he has been pitching. He’s a great pitcher.”
Verlander admitted he was eager to get back on the mound after his All-Star outing.
“I think everybody that has watched me or follows the Tigers or myself knows that that’s not me, that’s not the way I normally pitch,” Verlander said. “So it’s easy to turn the page on that, say all right, that’s not the way I pitch. Let me go out there and do what I normally do and start nice and easy, try to get some quick outs.”
Meanwhile, Verlander got all the support he needed on the second pitch of the game, which Austin Jackson hit out off Miguel Gonzalez for his 10th home run of the season, tying his career high.
“I think it was important that we came out fired up and I think we did that,” Jackson told Field after the game. “We got out early and you gotta adjust on the mound. If you get a good enough lead, you know he’s going to hold it.”
Jackson has scored a run in 12 straight games. The last Tiger to accomplish that was Rocky Colavito from August 18-29, 1961.
The Tigers also got runs from Jhonny Peralta’s RBI single in the second, Alex Avila’s RBI single in the sixth and Miguel Cabrera’s solo home run in the ninth.
Leyland loved the way his team performed following the four-day break.
“I thought we played a hell of a series, I really did,” Leyland said. “I told them after the game what a great effort the entire series. (Saturday) night was an unbelievable effort. Came out (Sunday) and the horse did what horses do. Couple big hits and just a stellar performance by Verlander. We go home winning the series against a club that had a really good first half and a really good club. Gotta be pleased.”
With the victory, the Tigers moved ahead of the Cleveland Indians, who lost Sunday, for second in the Central Division. The Chicago White Sox won so they remain 3 1/2 games ahead of the Tigers.