OAKLAND, Calif. -- Despite a 13-12 record, Justin Verlander has looked a bit more like his old self during the final month of the regular season, with a 2.27 ERA in his last six starts headed into Saturday's Game Two against the Athletics.
OAKLAND, Calif. -- Last year’s Game One starter Justin Verlander will take the ball for the Detroit Tigers in Game Two at Oakland on Saturday, and despite his struggles this season, he has quite the track record against the AL West champs. Current Athletics are hitting just .220 (35-for-159) against the right-hander, who has a 3.27 ERA against Oakland in two starts this season, with a 1-1 record.
Verlander allowed one earned run in 6.0 innings last time at O.co Coliseum, and went a disappointing 13-12 with a 3.46 ERA overall during the regular season.
“He was pretty good. He hadn’t given up many runs in a lot of his last several starts – two runs or less,” manager Jim Leyland said. “I think some of it probably was not up to the standards that the national media and everybody was used to, so that comes as a little bit of a surprise, probably a little bit is lost in the fact that Scherzer has been unbelievable, with his record and everything. He’s still been an excellent, excellent pitcher for us, and any time you can put him out there, you feel good about that. I expect a very good effort and performance from him tomorrow. He’s been a lot better than his record shows.”
Verlander sported a 2.27 ERA in the month of September with 48 strikeouts –- the most he’s had in a single month this season -- though he went just 1-2 in six starts.
“That’s what you talk about – the way hitters were reacting,” said Verlander. “It all just comes down to execution. I definitely felt like some of the adjustments I made allowed me to execute my pitches better in-game, and I’ve been working so hard on figuring stuff out and tweaking stuff here and there, because I knew I wasn’t right. And I felt like the last couple, I was able to get to a point where I didn't have to think about anything out there on the mound except for execution and that let me clear my mind.
"Obviously the game plan is to not worry about anything but execution, but when you're working on so many things, that is in the back of your mind and you're trying to do the things you're working on, but once that muscle memory gets engrained and you don't have to think about that anymore at all, the only thing on my mind was the right pitch and to execute it."
Oakland roughed up Verlander in the A’s first meeting with the 2011 Cy Young Award winner this season, scoring five runs (three earned) on four hits and three walks in just 5.0 innings, as Verlander struck out just three Oakland hitters – tied for the fewest K’s he’s had in a single outing this season.
“Obviously, they came into Detroit last time we played them and they were extremely hot. I feel like it was a kind of a combination of us pitchers not making great pitches and those guys being hot in their whole lineup,” Verlander said. “They put a hurtin' on us, beat us up pretty good. I remember in 2006, St. Louis came to us and we beat them really good, and we played them in the World Series, and they beat us. In season series aren't necessarily indicative of what's going to happen in the postseason.”
The Tigers will face rookie sensation Sonny Gray in Game Two, having not faced him at all during the regular season, a prospect with which Leyland is less than thrilled.
“The problem with Sonny Gray is that we don’t know much about him, other than what we’ve seen on the TV, and it looks pretty darn good,” Leyland said. “What our scouts have told us, they’ve told us he’s pretty darn good. So, a little anxious when you see somebody you haven’t seen before. Really good stuff. Really good competitor. Hard, with a very excellent curveball. We’ll just have to wait and see how it is tomorrow night, live.”
Ryan Gorcey covers Major League Baseball and publishes BearTerritory.net for Scout.com and FOX Sports NEXT. Follow him on twitter at @RGBearTerritory.