Justin Verlander’s season has been a microcosm of the Detroit Tigers’ season — highly anticipated but equally disappointing. The right-hander tries to avoid losing a career-worst fifth consecutive start Saturday when the Tigers continue their three-game home series with the Baltimore Orioles.
Verlander (8-13, 4.77 ERA) has allowed 24 earned runs - his most over any four-start stretch in his 89 career outings - in matching a season high by dropping four straight outings. He was reached for six runs and seven hits in 4 1-3 innings before being lifted Monday in a 7-2 defeat to Toronto, giving him a hideous 9.97 ERA in his recent slump.
“I’m not picking on anybody. I’m not mad at anybody, but (Verlander’s) had a tough year,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland told the team’s official Web site. “You don’t count on something like that from a guy like that.”
The right-hander’s recent struggles are surprising since he had reeled off four wins in as many starts prior to his slide. Verlander, who has bared little resemblance to the pitcher who went 18-6 last year, also lost four straight April 27-May 14 as part of a 1-7 stretch over his first eight starts in 2008.
His most recent win came against Baltimore on July 20, when he came within one out of a complete game in a 5-1 victory—allowing three hits. He is 2-0 with a 1.64 ERA in three lifetime starts versus the Orioles, yielding 13 hits in 22 innings.
Like their pitcher, the Tigers (59-63) are in the throes of a slump. Friday’s 11-2 loss was their 14th in the last 21 games overall and dropped them to 3-5 on their current 10-game homestand.
“It was pretty ugly,” Leyland succinctly noted.
Baltimore (59-62) has totaled 28 runs and 43 hits in its current three-game winning streak, batting .352 with 15 doubles. Melvin Mora, who finished a double shy of the cycle and had four RBIs in Friday’s victory, is 9-for-15 with two doubles, a triple, a homer and six RBIs in the three-game surge.
“To watch him right now is fun,” said Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts of Mora. “He’s locked in. And when there’s a man on base, it seems like he turns it up a notch.”
Mora is 9-for-19 with four homers and 11 RBIs in five games against Detroit this season, but 0-for-6 lifetime against Verlander.
Right-hander Dennis Sarfate (4-2, 5.16) gets another turn in the rotation for the Orioles despite going 0-1 with a 11.45 ERA in his first three starts this year. Sarfate’s control failed him Monday, when he walked five and gave up seven runs and five hits in four-plus innings of a 13-8 defeat to Cleveland.
Sarfate has allowed four runs in two innings in two relief appearances versus the Tigers.