Is Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander in a slump?
After pitching to an ERA of 2.40 when he won the 2011 American League Cy Young Award and a 2.64 ERA when he finished second in 2012, he is 6-4 now with an ERA of 3.68 over 11 starts.
That almost qualifies as an off year for him. And over his last three starts, Verlander has pitched to an ERA of 9.82 with a batting average against of .354.
What is going on here? Observers of the Tigers feel Verlander's fastball command has not been at its usual level lately, for one.
What should the Orioles' hitting approach be against the right-hander today? I asked O's hitting coach Jim Presley.
"He does pitch away quite a bit," Presley said. "He'll show you in and go back away. You can't look in, you have to look out over the plate and adjust in. Pitchers try to spot up away. That is what (Max) Scherzer did last night.
"As far as our approach, he doesn't stay with one pitch, he uses all four. He changes speeds and doesn't get in a pattern. That is why he is one of the best there is."
Verlander also has been known to start out a game pitching at one velocity level before cranking it up later and being able to hold that, or even add some velocity deep into his starts.
"I've seen him 91, 92 (mph) in the first two innings, then 96, 97 in the ninth inning of the same game," Presley said. "But today, it's a little warmer and he'll get pretty loose early."
Presley had a look at Verlander's most recent outing on tape. Does he see the talented right-hander struggling at all?
"I looked at his last start and I look at that with a grain of salt, because he can pitch bad for two games and then come in and shut you out," Presley said. "I'd rather he pitch good for three and then have a bad outing against us."
Verlander has never taken a loss against the Orioles. He is 7-0 with an ERA of 2.85 in 11 career starts. He is the only active pitcher with at least 10 starts against the Orioles to have a perfect record. He is 5-0 with a 2.05 ERA in six career starts at Camden Yards.
Detroit scores eight in the fourth: Guess the Tigers are not too down after last night's loss. They just scored eight runs in the top of the fourth to lead 9-1. Bet they like their chances now behind Verlander.
Victor Martinez, Jhonny Peralta and Alex Avila hit back-to-back-to-back homers off Jason Hammel and Hammel was ejected when the next pitch hit Matt Tuiasosopo. Hammel protested and since he hit the batter with an 82 mph slider, he probably had a case.
A few batters later, Miguel Cabrera greeted T.J. McFarland with his fourth career grand slam to make it a 9-1 game.
The eight-run inning is the biggest of the year against the Orioles. The previous most was a six-run top of the ninth on May 18 by Tampa Bay.
How can they come back from this far down?