Notes, quotes and figures from Verlander’s outing
Though Justin Verlander led the American League in strikeouts last year, he had just two starts all season with more than 10 strikeouts. One of them was an eight-inning, 14-strikeout performance against the Diamondbacks on June 25, 2011 that set a career high for him. Verlander matched that on Monday night. The fact that he did it against the Yankees made it even bigger.
Just two Tigers since 1918 had struck out 14 Yankees in a game, and they were both Hall of Famers. Jim Bunning did it in 1958. Hal Newhouser did it in 1943. Both games came before the designated hitter era.
Nobody on any team had struck out that many Yankees in a game since Pedro Martinez fanned 17 in a complete-game one-hitter on Sept. 10, 1999, according to baseball-reference.com.
“It’s a hard team to strike out,” Verlander said, “just because of how professional every single one of their batters is. And by professional, I mean they put up a lot of quality at-bats. They don’t swing. They don’t chase a lot of stuff. I was able to establish my breaking ball early in the game and throw a lot of strikes with it, which allowed me to start expanding the zone a little bit. They kind of had to swing at it because I established that I could throw a strike when I wanted.”
Verlander’s 132 pitches thrown tied his career high from May 29, 2011, when he tossed 7 2/3 scoreless innings against the Red Sox at Comerica Park. He topped his 2012 season high by one pitch, eclipsing the 131-pitch mark he reached in his complete-game win at Kansas City on April 16.
But the really impressive pitch total was the number of strikes he threw — 96, which marked the first time in his career he had reached 90. The only Major League pitcher to throw 96 strikes since 2003 was Brandon Morrow, who threw 97 strikes out of 137 pitches in his complete-game one-hitter for the Blue Jays against Tampa Bay on August 8, 2010. Morrow struck out 17 batters in that game.
At one point during the middle innings, Verlander was throwing better than three-quarters of his pitches for strikes. His final strike percentage was 72.7. If you look at every Major League game since 2000, nobody had thrown that many pitches with that high of a strike percentage. The last to do it was then-Astro Randy Johnson, who fired 101 strikes out of 133 pitches in a 16-strikeout, complete-game shutout of the Pirates on Aug. 28, 1998.