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Verlander pitches shutout after change in strategy

The SportsXchange

Justin Verlander made an adjustment after getting rocked for a total of seven runs in his previous three

starts.

Of course, a cynic might ask why it took three starts to do so.

The opposition, too, could be taken to task for taking more than a year to get effective on Verlander's

tactic of coming out in the first few innings spotting his fastball at 90-92 mph, then revving it up to the

mid- and upper-90s by the time his turn was done.

In Verlander's three starts prior to Friday at Cleveland, teams were waiting for those low-90s fastballs

and ripping them for hits. And runs. It didn't help that last year's Cy Young and MVP Award winners wasn't

spotting his fastball in low-percentage hitting zones, either. Instead, it was getting too much of the

hitters' sweet spots.

But a chat with pitching coach Jeff Jones led to a change in strategy.

"Jonesy talked to him about maybe coming out instead of throwing 90-91-92, maybe 94 would have been a

little bit better," manager Jim Leyland said. "But that means he has to exert himself a little more. Plus

he got into a couple jams and he had to tune it up a notch."

Verlander hit 94 and 95 mph with his fastball in the first inning Friday, mixed in about 50 percent

off-speed stuff and pitched seven shutout innings before finishing his night at 110 pitches.

Verlander said it wasn't that big a deal.

"I felt like over the years, it's been harder for me to slow down," he said. "It's not hard to make an

adjustment."

Verlander got some help from his defense, too.

A leadoff single plus a double put runners on second and third with nobody out in the fifth with Detroit

leading, 4-0.

A comebacker to Verlander and a strikeout kept the runners in place then Prince Fielder made a diving

stop of what looked like a double down the line and threw to Verlander for the out.

The Indians had the same situation with one out in the sixth, but a short fly ball set up Miguel Cabrera

to make a diving stop of a sharp grounder down the line. He got up and threw out the hitter to preserve the

shutout.

"It's a huge pickup when you're out there on the mound, and you battle and get a couple guys out and one

of your teammates makes a play like that behind you," Verlander said. "That's teamwork at its best."
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