Justin Verlander believes he's started to turn the corner, though he still has a winless streak and home struggles to overcome.
The former AL Cy Young winner will try to remedy both Wednesday in Detroit as the Tigers go for a three-game sweep of the MLB-leading Oakland Athletics.Verlander (6-7, 4.80 ERA) went 0-3 with a 6.82 ERA in five June starts, but he didn't get a decision in his last two as things slightly improved. The right-hander allowed three runs and six hits while striking out eight in six innings of Friday's 4-3 loss in Houston."I feel like I'm getting the swings I would like to see," said Verlander, who has lost a career-high four straight starts at Comerica Park with a 7.11 ERA. "Guys aren't quite seeing the ball as well and the offspeed is a little sharper."He's also undergone some mechanical changes that have required an extra bullpen session between starts."I felt like this was something we have to do to get him back to where he was," manager Brad Ausmus told MLB's official website. "As pitchers get older and more mature, they have to make adjustments because, physically, they're going to change."Verlander is 8-6 with a 2.48 ERA and .209 opponent average in 15 career starts against Oakland.After Tuesday's 3-0 victory, the Tigers (46-34) have won 10 of 12 to regain a solid hold of the AL Central. J.D. Martinez, who has started consecutive games while Victor Martinez deals with soreness in his left side, clubbed his 10th homer during a 2-for-4 night that gives him a .380 average with seven home runs and 20 RBIs in his last 20 games.Victor Martinez could be back in the lineup Wednesday.Detroit's pitching was a cause for concern as the team began to slide in late May, but the starting staff has compiled a 2.20 ERA over the last 12 games after Rick Porcello opened July with a four-hit shutout.It was the second straight game Porcello kept his relievers off the mound, an especially good thing considering the Detroit bullpen has allowed at least a run in nine straight appearances with a 5.16 ERA.The A's have had the opposite problem with their starters compiling a 6.33 ERA over a 4-4 span.Oakland (51-32) has lost four of six in the season series and turns to Jesse Chavez to halt the slump.Chavez (6-4, 2.94) has been far more consistent than his counterpart, yielding no more than four earned runs in a game this season -- resulting in a 12-4 team record with him on the mound.He wasn't at his best in Friday's 9-5 win in Miami, surrendering four runs and six hits in five innings while not earning the decision, but his teammates picked him up."That just shows what kind of character we have, what we've been doing all year, the last couple years really," said Chavez, who has walked seven in his last two starts.The right-hander allowed three runs and eight hits in six innings of a 5-4 loss to the Tigers on May 29 in his only start against them. His bullpen struggles against them bump his career numbers in the series to 0-2 with a 10.20 ERA and .412 opponent average.Miguel Cabrera is 3 for 6, Alex Aliva is 2 for 5 and both have homered against Chavez.Oakland catcher Derrick Norris could return Wednesday after a sore back has kept him out of four games.Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes, who is on a career-best 14-game hitting streak, also missed Tuesday's game with a left hamstring strain. Manager Bob Melvin said he will be available on Wednesday.
Justin Verlander has ended 148 plate appearances with a fastball above 93 MPH. In these plate appearances, he has allowed a slugging percentage of .527, 155 points greater than the league average among qualifying starters. In 57 plate appearances ending with a fastball greater than 93 mph, Brandon Moss has a slugging percentage of .521, 108 points greater than the league average.
From Elias: The Athletics failed to draw a walk against the Detroit starting rotation during their 3-game series.
The last time the A's did not draw a walk against the opponents' starting pitchers in a series of 3+ games was June 19-22, 1978 at Texas.