Justin Verlander not dazzling, but good enough to stop the Tigers’ bleeding

By Tom Gage
The Detroit News

Minneapolis — So, really, how did Justin Verlander pitch in Saturday night’s 8-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins — a win that followed two defeats at Target Field in which the Tigers were outscored 32-10?

And how much did Verlander identify this start in the second game of a doubleheader as a pressure situation for him, meaning the urgency with which the Tigers needed a victory?

In an honest self-assessment after missing a start because of shoulder soreness, Verlander didn’t try to convince anyone that he pitched great.

But he was good enough to give the Tigers what they needed.

“I felt good early on,” Verlander said at his locker after the game, “but this is a lineup that’s really locked in right now. They hit some good pitches, and that’s what happens when you face a hot lineup.

“But the big part for me was how I felt. My shoulder felt good, especially early. It got a little fatigued, much quicker than usual, but I was able to keep the team in the game.”

One thing Verlander couldn’t go by, as he encountered the rare rust of skipping a start, was how he threw in the bullpen before the game. He couldn’t go by it, and didn’t want to, because so few of his pitches while warming up hit the location he wanted.

“I probably threw one or two pitches where I wanted my whole bullpen,” he said, “but you turn the page going into the game. You have to flip the switch and execute.

“It (my location) got a lot better, but it wasn’t great. My slider and fastball were the rustiest.

“There were a lot pitches I left up or didn’t quite execute as I normally would, but I kept a hot offense semi-down, as best I could.”

Evening his record at 11-11 with his first victory since Aug. 1, Verlander allowed four runs on eight hits in 52/3 innings. He walked three and struck out six.

As usual, Verlander didn’t want to come out when manager Brad Ausmus thought it was time, but he didn’t campaign to be left in.

“I wanted to finish the (sixth) inning, but I knew what he was seeing,” Verlander said of Ausmus. “Fatigue was a factor there. I’d been off for a while and he couldn’t let the game slip away from us.”

As for being a pressure situation for the team, Verlander said “we needed this one. We definitely needed to win this one because of the way we lost the last couple.

“They were pretty demoralizing losses. And I knew the Twins were going to be locked in.

“But I made some pitches when I had to, and hopefully today cooled them down a little bit.”