Plenty of pitchers would be more than pleased to have Justin Verlander's numbers, but they're not nearly good enough for the former AL MVP.
He has nothing to scoff at when it comes to his recent outings against the Oakland Athletics, though.Verlander seeks to win a seventh consecutive start against visiting Oakland on Tuesday night while helping the Detroit Tigers bounce back from a loss in the series opener.Verlander (12-9, 3.68 ERA) allowed six runs and 10 hits in seven innings of Detroit's 7-6 loss to Minnesota on Thursday to mark the seventh start he's given up at least five runs, which hasn't happened since he did so nine times in 2009.The right-hander is on pace for his worst ERA since finishing with a 4.84 mark while going 11-17 in 2008."It has been a real grind for me all season," Verlander said. "When you look at my numbers and then look at my record, you realize it could be a lot worse."Verlander's recent starts against the A's, though, couldn't have gone much better. He's won the last six, including Game 1 and Game 5 of last season's Division Series, while posting a 0.63 ERA.He gave up one run and three hits in six innings of a 7-3 road victory April 13 over Oakland, which had lost four of five prior to winning 8-6 in the opener of this four-game set Monday.The A's (73-57) trail Texas by a slim margin in the AL West, though they hold a two-game edge on Cleveland for the league's second wild-card spot. Coco Crisp went 3 for 6 with a solo homer -- his fourth in five games -- while also contributing a diving catch in the bottom of the eighth as Detroit was attempting to rally.Crisp, who didn't play in Verlander's last start against the A's, is hitting .364 in the regular season off him."They were swinging the bats good, and we didn't pitch good," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. "Our pitchers have been terrific, but they got beat. No big deal."Victor Martinez went 4 for 5 and Miguel Cabrera homered for the third time in four games, a two-run shot for his 43rd of the season. The AL Central-leading Tigers (77-54) were coming off a three-game sweep of the New York Mets over the weekend.Detroit looks to bounce back against Oakland starter Tommy Milone, who may need a solid outing to avoid being sent to the bullpen.Milone (9-9, 4.30) was demoted to Triple-A after giving up six runs and nine hits in 3 2/3 innings of an 8-3 loss to Texas on Aug. 2, and his return to the club didn't go much better Aug. 18. He allowed three runs -- one earned -- and six hits in 4 2/3 innings of a 7-3 win over Cleveland.The left-hander was recalled after Bartolo Colon went on the disabled list, though he's in danger of being placed in a relief role."Getting sent down obviously isn't something I wanted to happen, but it's kind of eye-opening," Milone said. "I just have to go out there and take it one game at a time, and hopefully they stick with me."Milone has been solid against the Tigers, going 1-0 with a 2.55 ERA in three career starts. His last outing versus Detroit was in Oakland's 5-4 walkoff loss in Game 2 of the ALDS, when he gave up one run and struck out six in six innings.
Over his last four starts, Verlander's velocity has declined. After averaging 96.1 with his fastball and topping out at 99.9 in a start on August 6 at Cleveland, he dropped to 94.2 in his next start and 92.5 in his most recent against the Twins. His maximum velocity has dropped 3.7 mph over that span.