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."
- Justin Verlander