Justin Verlander's shared burden
DETROIT -- By the second inning on "Sunday Night Baseball," Justin Verlander had started to throw his curveball for strikes, and while the Chicago White Sox had an early 1-0 lead because of Alejandro De Aza's leadoff home run in the first, the Chicago hitters probably had a sense that they might be finished scoring against Verlander for the evening.
Verlander's curveball is one of the few in the majors that can spin at a rate of more than 3,000 revolutions per minute, and if that was the only pitch he threw, then maybe the White Sox would've had a chance. But inning by inning, Verlander's velocity ticked up, peaking in the seventh inning, when he hit 100 mph on the radar gun repeatedly, as he crossed the 100-pitch mark. This is common for the Tigers' ace, as he seemingly unloads the tank near the end of an outing. This season, opponents are 12-for-97 (.124) with a .198 OBP, .332 OPS, one extra-base hit (a double) and 43 strikeouts against Verlander after his 100th pitch.
Along the way, one of the many self-deprecating White Sox jokingly asked if I could flip a ball into the on-deck circle. "I want to remember what it's like to make contact," he said.
There are other great pitchers in the majors, but Verlander and Felix Hernandez are among the very elite, those who can seemingly impose their will on a game and just decide that scoring has ceased. By the fifth inning, the presence of the White Sox hitters just seemed irrelevant, with Verlander quickly getting the ball and firing it, wherever he wanted to, whether it was a knee-bending curveball or a fastball. Pedro Martinez had this ability. So did Johan Santana and Roger Clemens.
Verlander is like Clemens in another way, as well.
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