Verlander struggles as Royals top Tigers again

BY foxsports • July 20, 2013

Jim Leyland doesn't like what he's seening from Justin Verlander.

Verlander doesn't like it either, but the two disagree on what's caused his two-month slump.

"It looks to me, and we'll have to see what Justin says about it, that he's pitching careful," Leyland said after Verlander allowed six runs, five earned, in Saturday's 6-5 loss to the Royals. "He's not being aggressive right now.

"I don't know for sure, but that's what I sense."

The worst moment came in the bottom of the fifth. After the Tigers had taken advantage of Kansas City mistakes to tie the game at 5, Verlander got the first two outs but fell behind 2-0 to Mike Moustakas.

The next pitch was a 92-mph fastball down the middle, and Moustakas crushed it for what turned out to be a game-winning homer.

"It's obviously frustrating because these guys look to me to win games," Verlander said. "That's especially true when they score five runs. That's why I'm here."

Verlander had an extra day between starts, thanks to the All-Star break, and said he felt a little rusty. Still, Verlander is just 6-5 with a 4.85 ERA in his last 14 starts, so Saturday wasn't an isolated event.

"It's been a see-saw battle," Verlander said. "When I have it, it is good. But when I don't, I can't find it. Today, there were a couple times where I thought I had found something and then it was gone again.

"All I can hope is that the extra day got me a little out of sync, and I'll be better the next time out."

Despite his ongoing struggles, Verlander was quick to disagree with his manager's assessment that he was being too careful.

"No," Verlander stated, also saying the writers would have to ask Leyland why he had said it.

Even after Verlander's bad night -- he gave up eight hits, four walks and lasted just 5 2/3 innings -- the Tigers should have at least tied the game in the eighth inning.

Alex Avila started the inning with his third hit of the game, and Don Kelly walked. Leyland decided to have slumping Austin Jackson bunt, which a questionable call with three All-Stars coming up.

But things got stranger when Aaron Crow couldn't get the ball over the plate. With a 3-1 count, Jackson has a career .622 on-base percentage, but the bunt stayed on. He got it down, but Torii Hunter couldn't drive in the tying run.

That left runners on second and third for Miguel Cabrera, and Ned Yost chose to gamble on pitching to him instead of having to throw strikes to Prince Fielder with the bases loaded. It worked, as Cabrera grounded out to third base.

Victor Martinez thought he had tied the game off Royals closer Greg Holland in the ninth, posing on a line drive to right; however, the ball hit high off the wall, and Martinez had to hustle for a double.

Holland then retired Jhonny Peralta and Matt Tuiasosopo to end the game.

Now the Tigers need a win from Doug Fister on Sunday to avoid the worst possible start to the second part of the season.

"This is huge for us because we're playing the first-place team in the division and we're going into Sunday with a chance for a sweep," Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer said. "These have been two big wins."