Verlander throws Twins a curve (or 20)
Justin Verlander’s outing Monday night could go a long way towards easing the concern about him for the playoffs. They just have to get there first.
The latter should happen in the next day or two. If there’s a postseason spot hanging on his next start in the regular-season finale Sunday at Miami, they’re in trouble. If not, the outing will all be about getting him ready to roll for October.
Verlander has been talking about it for weeks, calling the postseason a deadline for him to get his game together. He’ll face way better, more experienced lineups than the Twins fielded Monday, but if he can throw curveballs like he did Monday, the caliber of hitters probably won’t make much of a difference. When he executed, he could get outs at will.
It was a tight, sharp breaking ball rather than a big, loopy curve. The movement, moreover, included a little action diving outside from right-handed hitters, which really seemed to throw hitters off. He felt good about his curveball last outing, too, despite the results. This time, the strikeouts backed up his point.
“I think I had the best breaking ball I had all year,” he said. “It was really sharp. I was able to go to it when I wanted to, throw it for strikes and expand the zone with it. Fastball location was better than it has been, and I was able execute for the most part.”
Verlander threw 20 curveballs, according to brooksbaseball.net, and threw 11 of them for strikes. He induced just three swings and misses from them, but spotted seven others for called strikes. It took him an inning or two to get it going, and he needed his slider to get him through that stage until he could feel comfortable going to the curve for strikes. Once he got it going, though, he was throwing them ahead in counts and daring opponents to try to hit it. They didn’t.
That success made up for a drop in his strike percentage on fastballs. He had been pounding the zone at a 70 percent rate on his fastballs over his previously two or three starts, but threw strikes with just 30 out of 47 fastballs Monday (63.83 percent). Seven of those strikes were swings and misses.
Add in 22 changeups and 18 sliders, and Verlander had one of his better mixes of the year going for him.
“Verlander had great stuff tonight,” Brian Dozier said. “The last time we faced him at their place, he was sharp. But he was back to his old self tonight. His curveball was really working tonight and punched out a lot of guys. So our goal when he’s going like that is to make him work and get to the bullpen.”