For Verlander, some fastballs were too fast

April, 11, 2012
4/11/12
11:52
PM ET
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesAfter pitching 16 scoreless innings to start the season, Justin Verlander picked up the Tigers' first loss by allowing four runs in the ninth inning against the Rays.
For eight innings on Wednesday, Justin Verlander pitched like the reigning American League MVP and Cy Young winner. Twenty-three pitches later, the Detroit Tigers were on the way to their first loss of the season.

Verlander needed just 81 pitches to get through the first eight innings against the Tampa Bay Rays with the Tigers leading 2-0. That brought him to 16 scoreless innings with just three hits allowed on the season. In the ninth, he allowed four runs after surrendering three hits and a walk.

Verlander was the first pitcher to throw eight scoreless innings before allowing four or more runs in the ninth inning to take a loss since Tim Hudson for the Atlanta Braves on Sept. 22, 2005, against the Philadelphia Phillies.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he’s the first starting pitcher to pick up a loss after allowing no runs on one hit or fewer in the first eight innings of a game his team led entering the ninth since Mark Langston of the Seattle Mariners in 1989. Langston took a no-hitter into the ninth inning before losing to the Toronto Blue Jays.

Verlander struggled with his fastball in the ninth inning, seemingly from over-throwing the pitch. In his first 16 innings this season, Verlander averaged 93.1 mph on his fastball, reaching a maximum velocity of 97.9. On 13 fastballs in the ninth inning against the Rays, every pitch came in above that average. He measured as high as 99.5 mph and averaged 97.2 during the frame.

Even with the extra oomph, the Rays were able to get to Verlander because he was leaving the ball over the plate. Entering the ninth, opposing hitters were 2-for-25 against Verlander’s fastball as he threw only eight percent down the heart of the plate. In the ninth inning, he threw 31 percent of his fastballs straight down the middle, including two hits by the Rays.

Quick Hits

• With the Tigers and Arizona Diamondbacks losing and the Minnesota Twins winning, every major-league team has at least one win and one loss.

• Six days after tying a career-high by allowing 10 hits against the St. Louis Cardinals, Josh Johnson didn’t make it out of the fourth inning against the Phillies after allowing a career-high 11 hits.

• Peter Bourjos hit the second inside-the-park home run in Target Field history. The ball traveled 372 feet and would have been out of 10 ballparks.

• Tim Lincecum lasted just 2⅓ innings against the Colorado Rockies, his shortest outing in 157 career starts.

• The Oakland Athletics won in the bottom of the 12th inning when Jonny Gomes was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded. It was the first time game-ending hit by pitch since … Brad Lidge hit Gomes as the Washington Nationals beat the Philadelphia Phillies on August 21, 2011. From Elias, it was the first game to end with back-to-back hit batters since 1966.

• Stephen Strasburg tossed six scoreless innings, topping 100 pitches for the first time in 19 career starts with the Nationals.

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