Boston Red Sox: Justin Verlander

Sox must beat either Scherzer or Verlander

October, 18, 2013
10/18/13
4:22
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If the Red Sox (up 3-2) are going to advance to their third World Series in 10 years, they’re going to have to beat either likely Cy Young winner Max Scherzer or former Cy Young winner Justin Verlander, who has given up exactly one run in his past five starts. Scherzer is scheduled to start Saturday’s Game 6 of the ALCS at Fenway Park and Verlander will go Sunday (if necessary).

Scherzer had a no-hitter into the seventh inning of Game 2 and ended up giving up one run over seven innings. Verlander gave up his first hit in the fifth inning and went eight total in Game 3, the one blemish the homer by Mike Napoli that turned out to be the game-winner.

The Red Sox were a combined 6 for 50 (.120 BA) against Scherzer and Verlander in Games 2 and 3, with two extra-base hits and 23 strikeouts. No Red Sox batter had more than one hit combined off either starter. David Ortiz, Mike Carp, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Will Middlebrooks were a combined 0 for 18 with 10 strikeouts.

Scherzer and Verlander made back-to-back starts 19 times during the regular season. In those games, the Tigers won both games seven times, split the two starts 11 times and lost both once.

Verlander: Victorino has been hit by strikes

October, 14, 2013
10/14/13
5:52
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DETROIT -- Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander gave voice Monday to a topic that surprisingly has not created more of an issue before this. Asked about Shane Victorino’s penchant for being hit by a pitch -- he has been hit five times in the postseason, beginning with his first plate appearance in Game 1 of the ALDS -- Verlander suggested that umpires should take into account the way Victorino appears to hang over the plate in the right-handed batter’s box.

“I’ve seen pitches that he got hit on that were strikes,’’ Verlander said during a formal media interview session. “So, I mean, I don’t think you can worry about that. I think just whoever is the home plate umpire needs to be aware he’s up there.

“Anything on the inner half, occasionally he’s looking to get hit. He’s up there, he’s right on top of the plate. And his arms are over the batter’s box and over part of the plate. If he doesn’t get out of the way, there could be an occasion that it could be a strike and it actually hits him.

“That’s something that I think that those guys (umpires) are aware of. But you can’t think about not hitting a guy. You’ve got to think about executing your pitches and not changing anything because of that. And hopefully, if something like that happens those guys are on top of it.’’

According to Major League rule 6.08 (b), umpires have the discretion to call a pitch a strike if it hits a batter if the pitch is in the strike zone. Here is how the rule reads:

The batter is awarded first base when “he is touched by a pitched ball which he is not attempting to hit unless (1) the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, or 2) the batter makes no attempt to avoid being touched by the ball.

“If the ball is in the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a strike, whether or not the batter tries to avoid the ball. If the ball is outside the strike zone when it touches the batter, it shall be called a ball if he makes no attempt to avoid being touched.’’

Victorino was hit an American League-leading 18 times in 2013, including 11 times in the 38 games since he began batting right-handed against right-handed pitchers. Customarily a switch-hitter, Victorino abandoned hitting from the left side because of hamstring and back issues that have plagued him all season.

To date, no one has made such a direct challenge as Verlander to Victorino’s setup at the plate, though Rays left-hander Alex Torres, who hit Victorino in the fifth inning of Game 4 of the ALDS, gestured to plate umpire Paul Emmel, indicating displeasure at what he considered Victorino’s lack of effort to avoid the pitch.

Fangraphs.com took a detailed look at the issue here, and for the most part absolves Victorino of liability, although it cites one egregious example in which Victorino appears to have stuck his elbow into the strike zone to be hit by a pitch thrown by Kansas City’s James Shields.

For the record, Verlander hit four batters this season. All were right-handed hitters.

With Beckett-Verlander, no hit parade tonight

May, 19, 2011
5/19/11
5:28
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BOSTON -- If recent results are an accurate predictor of future performance, the starting pitching matchup suggests that runs will be hard to come by in the finale of this brief, two-game set with the Tigers.

Josh Beckett takes the ball for the Red Sox tonight, and Justin Verlander does the same for the Tigers.

Verlander, of course, fired a no-hitter at the Blue Jays two starts ago. In his next start, all he did was hold the Royals hitless for 5 2/3 innings, threatening to become just the second pitcher in baseball history to throw back-to-back no-hitters. He finished that start with this line: 8 IP, 2 H, 1 ER, 3 BB, 7 K.

The recent run of dominance has improved Verlander's win-loss record to 4-3, his ERA to 2.91 (from 3.75 three starts ago) and his WHIP to 0.94.

“I mean, this guy tonight, you go into the game knowing you’re not gonna knock him around the ballpark,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said of Verlander in his pregame meeting with the media. “But if we can make him earn everything he gets, then maybe we get him out an inning early, maybe he makes a mistake. Because his stuff is phenomenal.”

That stuff includes a curveball, a changeup and a fastball that can hit triple digits on the radar gun. And unlike many flamethrowers, Verlander has an uncanny ability to maintain -- or even increase -- his velocity late in starts.

When a reporter reminded Francona that last year Verlander was throwing close to 100 mph late in his start against the Sox, the manager deadpanned: “I know, I appreciate you bringing that up. He has that ability. He certainly does.”

And while he hasn't flirted with no-hit history, Beckett's been no slouch himself of late. The big right-hander hasn't allowed a run in three May starts, spanning 17 1/3 innings, and has allowed just 11 hits and six walks while he's struck out 17. The consecutive blank slates have lowered Beckett's ERA to 1.75, though he collected only one win in the three-start span, last time out against the Yankees.

When it comes to the head-to-head matchup, Beckett has had a bit more success versus the Tigers than Verlander has had versus the Red Sox. Beckett is 3-1 with a 2.60 ERA, an 0.87 WHIP and 29 K's against Detroit; Verlander checks in at 2-2 with a 3.89 ERA, a 1.24 WHIP and 30 K's against Boston. Beckett has held the Tigers to the lowest batting average (.170) of any team he's faced.

And then there's the fact Beckett is 2-0 with a 0.34 ERA at home this season.

Add in the unpleasant weather -- the tarp is back in its recently customary position over the infield, as the late-afternoon rain pelts down -- to the success of the starters and it would certainly seem that offense should be at a premium Thursday night.

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com and contributes to ESPNBoston.com.

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