Verlander got out of rhythm
The much-anticipated showdown with Justin Verlander and Zack Greinke trying to outpitch each other never quite materialized. Still, Verlander felt pretty good about his outing, despite a no-decision and no quality start.
Though Verlander gave up a two-run homer to Yuniesky Betancourt in the second inning and a two-run single to Billy Butler in the fifth, Verlander felt good about the innings he put up in between. He found a rhythm in that stretch, something it took him a handful of starts to find last year.
“I really didn’t have that feeling in the spring,” Verlander said. “But today I definitely felt it, and it’s something I can build off of.”
Velocitywise, he was strong from the outside, hitting 100 mph on the Kauffman Stadium at least twice in the first five batters he faced. Betancourt’s homer came on a 99 mph fastball, and it culminated a nine-pitch at-bat in which Betancourt fouled off three two-strike pitches. He took a 100 mph pitch to run the count full before getting Verlander’s 99 mph heater.
“Betancourt had one of the great at-bats of the day, for either team,” manager Jim Leyland said. “He fouled off some tough pitches and finally got one out there over the plate, and he whacked it. I’m always worried when a guy sees a lot of pitches in one at-bat. They normally hit it hard somewhere. They might not always get a hit, but they normally hit it hard somewhere.”
Verlander retired 10 straight hitters after that, striking out four of them, to keep it a one-run game. He gave up four straight baserunners in the fifth however, capped by Butler’s line drive to right on Verlander’s second straight 100 mph fastball.
“I think the biggest at-bat was [Scott] Podsednik,” said Verlander, referring to the walk that loaded the bases and extended the inning for Butler. “He was the catalyst for that inning, i think. I got a little out of rhythm. I had that rhythm early, the third and fourth [inning] especially, and I just kind of fell out of sync a little bit.”
Verlander threw 33 pitches that inning — many of them fastballs giving him 93 pitches through five. In hindsight, it cost him a chance at a victory, since one more inning would’ve put him in line as the pitcher of record going into the seventh. However, Leyland said he had no problem with Verlander’s pitching and expects him to settle in.
The no-decision leaves Verlander winless in three straight Opening Day starts. In those three outings, he has given up 16 runs on 18 hits over 11 2/3 innings, racking up 16 strikeouts.