ANAHEIM – Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander has been dominant in 2011, bringing a 2.32 ERA and 11-3 record into Tuesday’s start against the Angels.
He allowed five total runs in five June starts. He threw a no-hitter in May. Of his 18 starts this season, 17 have been of the quality variety.
So, what do you do if you’re an Angel hitter going up against him Tuesday?
“You hope for a little help,” said left fielder Vernon Wells, who’s hitting .429 against Verlander in his career. “He’s not gonna give you too many opportunities to do too much, so, whenever he does happen to leave the ball over the plate, we gotta do our best to do some damage with it.
“Hopefully he’ll make a few more mistakes than he has throughout this whole season.”
About the mistakes – Verlander’s lowered his walk-rate significantly in 2011, to the point where he’s now issuing less than two free passes a game. He’s actually allowing more homers than he has in the past, but the lack of walks has made such a dramatic difference it’s made up for it.
Verlander’s opponent Tuesday will be Dan Haren, a dominant pitcher in his own right who is coming off a 7 1/3-inning shutout performance against the Nationals last week. His numbers aren’t quite at Verlander levels, but his win-loss record stands at a respectable 8-5, with a 2.85 ERA to boot.
A duel between the two is likely, although they’ll go about it in their own contrasting styles.
“They’re totally different in the way they pitch,” manager Mike Scioscia said Monday. “Verlander has that electric power stuff. “He relies on stuff and movement, changing movement from fastball to breaking ball to changeup -- as opposed to Dan Haren, who relies on locating pitches with a different variety of looks.
“They have different ways of going about it, but they are two of the best pitchers in baseball."
The current Angels do hit the 28-year-old Verlander well, in general, totaling 48 hits in 148 at-bats for a .324 average. Center fielder Peter Bourjos, catcher Jeff Mathis and second baseman Howie Kendrick are a combined 2-for-19 against Verlander, but the other five Angels in Tuesday’s lineup – excluding rookie Mark Trumbo, who’s never faced him – are all hitting better than .300 in head-to-head matchups.
But, this year, opponents are hitting just .184 against Verlander, the second-worst clip in the majors.
“He’s throwing the ball, right now, better than he ever has in his career,” Scioscia said. “There’s no doubt you’ve gotta try to pressure him to piece together some offense, because you very rarely get the big inning off a pitcher of his caliber.
Earlier in his seven-year career, Verlander had a reputation as more of a thrower than a pitcher, a guy who struggled with his control at times but often got by because of the velocity on his fastball.
Not so much anymore.
“I think the more time he’s spent in this league, he’s started to figure out different things,” Wells said. “If you look at what Weaver is doing, it’s the same thing. With experience comes that knowledge of how to get guys out, and, in Verlander’s case, even though some days he may not have his best stuff he’s learning how to pitch.
“Being able to know how to pitch and throw 100 (miles per hour) is a lethal combination.”
* The new turf at Angel Stadium, installed after the recent U2 concerts held on the field during an Angel road trip, is starting to get back to normal.
It had been a small cause for concern after a seven-error game between the Angels and Nationals last week, but the abnormalities have just about all disappeared.
“The field’s much better than it was four days ago,” Scioscia said Tuesday. “It doesn’t take long. (Head groundskeeper) Barney (Lopas) said it wasn’t going to take long because of the heat and everything, so the seams will fill up pretty quickly.”
Here are the lineups for tonight's 7:05 p.m. game:
1. Austin Jackson CF
2. Brennan Boesch LF
3. Magglio Ordonez RF
4. Miguel Cabrera DH
5. Victor Martinez 1B
6. Jhonny Peralta SS
7. Alex Avila C
8. Ryan Raburn 2B
9. Don Kelly 3B
1. Maicer Izturis 3B
2. Torii Hunter RF
3. Bobby Abreu DH
4. Vernon Wells LF
5. Howie Kendrick 2B
6. Erick Aybar SS
7. Mark Trumbo 1B
8. Peter Bourjos CF
9. Jeff Mathis C