DETROIT — Justin Verlander expects better from himself than a 6-5 record and 4.19 ERA.
Despite the 7-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays in which he allowed six runs (five earned) on eight hits while walking a season high-tying four and striking out four, Verlander feels he’s heading in the right direction.
"My last two starts, my stuff has been much better than it has been," Verlander said. "I feel like I’ve kind of turned a corner. I know the results don’t speak for that today — at all. But I’m optimistic moving forward."
Verlander said he started working on a mechanical adjustment before his last start in Seattle.
In that game, Verlander allowed three runs on five hits while walking one and striking out seven.
I wouldn’t get too focused on the runs today. His stuff was outstanding.
But the Blue Jays are not the Mariners.
"I feel like my fastball was really good," Verlander said. "Just didn’t quite execute a few off-speed pitches. (Dioner) Navarro, it was kind of a hanging curveball, even though he didn’t hit it hard, was able to get enough of it to hit it up the middle. The next guy, slider, stayed up a little bit and he rolled it over into the hole. (Juan) Francisco was a change-up that was a little up and a little on the plate.
"If those are a little bit better executed, it’s a whole different ballgame. I’m still encouraged."
Verlander isn’t the only one.
"I wouldn’t get too focused on the runs today. His stuff was outstanding," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "That ball drops, changes the whole inning. He gives up a couple of home runs later, but the inning before that might have been the best inning he’s had all year. I know the scoreboard doesn’t look great for Ver’s outing, but his stuff was good today."
The inning Ausmus was referring to was the fourth when Jose Bautista hit a fly ball to right-center field. It looked like Austin Jackson thought Torii Hunter was going to catch it but Hunter lost it off the bat and it dropped in for a two-base error.
Adam Lind followed with a single. Navarro drove in Bautista with a single and Erik Kratz drove in both Lind and Brett Lawrie, who had walked, turning a 2-0 Tigers lead into a 3-2 Blue Jays lead.
"You gotta go out there and you gotta try to pick up your teammate," Verlander said. "I wasn’t able to do it."
Catcher Alex Avila is another one who feels Verlander is on the right track.
"I think his start in Seattle and this start, his stuff has been really crisp, really the velocity, the action on some of his pitches has been good," Avila said. "I definitely like what I see. Today I thought he pitched really well except for two pitches, basically."
Verlander also ran into trouble in the sixth, when he walked Lind and gave up back-to-back home runs to Francisco and Lawrie.
"I’ve been working on a mechanical adjustment and I think the results, stuff-wise, are all positive," Verlander said. "But with those mechanical adjustments, sometimes you fall out of whack a little bit."
Just as Verlander believes in his team and their ability to turn things around, he believes in himself.
"I’m staying positive," Verlander said. "I’m looking at the good side of things. I look back to the season after 2008, I had horrible stuff in 2008, come back in ’09, and my stuff in April was right where I wanted it to be but I had a horrible April. I just kept telling myself and I told you guys, it’s gonna turn. If I keep pitching this way, it’s gonna turn. That’s the way I feel right now."
ROMINE OK/SUAREZ HOPEFULLY SO SOON
The Tigers are limited at shortstop at the moment as rookie Eugenio Suarez has a sore left knee after his awkward slide in Wednesday night’s game.
Suarez underwent an MRI.
"The news was generally good," Ausmus said. "We’re hoping it’ll just be a few days. Because of the position, obviously, we’ll have to see how he feels (Friday) morning. But they don’t feel it’s major structural damage."
Also dinged in that game was Andrew Romine, who hurt his shoulder in the fourth inning trying to get Jose Bautista’s base hit.
Romine had an X-ray on the shoulder but there was no structural damage.
"I thought I broke something, for sure," Romine said. "I wasn’t sure what I did, but I wanted to make sure nothing was broken before I tried to push off on it. I’ll play as much as I can."