Verlander ('04) Tosses First Major League Complete Game Shutout
By ODU Athletics
May 23, 2006
Verlander, Tigers shut out Royals By Robert Falkoff / MLB.com
KANSAS CITY -- There's a game of one-upmanship going on within the Tigers sizzling starting rotation. Who's going to upstage Justin Verlander? One good start leads to another for Detroit these days and Verlander carried his weight and more on Monday night with an 8-0 complete-game shutout victory over the Royals at Kauffman Stadium.
Verlander is the all-time strikeout leader in CAA, ODU and Virginia Division I history with 427.
Verlander became the Tigers first rookie pitcher to throw a shutout since Andy Van Hekken on Sept. 3, 2002. It was the first shutout by any Detroit pitcher since Jeremy Bonderman had one at Tampa Bay on Sept. 30, 2004.
Although two of the five Kansas City hits came in the ninth inning, Verlander hit 99 mph on the radar gun during the frame. He needed just 114 pitches to get his 27 outs and record the first complete game of his pro career.
Verlander was down to his last man when he faced Reggie Sanders with two on and two outs in the ninth. Manager Jim Leyland said Verlander's pitch count was such that he would have made a move if Sanders had reached. But Verlander got Sanders on a popup to right field and now has a streak of 17 consecutive shutout innings.
"I wanted to be out there," Verlander said in reference to getting through the ninth to record the shutout. "Most of all, I'm glad I got a win for the team. And personally, I couldn't be more excited. Hopefully, it's one of many to come."
Verlander fanned seven and walked only one. Kansas City often went after his fastball early in the count, but could hardly do anything with it.
"It was the same way with Minnesota my last time out," Verlander said. "They were aggressive with the fastball early in the count. I used that to my advantage and had some quick innings. That enabled me to make it to the ninth inning. It was just one of those nights when everything was working."
With Verlander's shutout, the Tigers team ERA dropped from 3.26 to 3.18. Detroit has won 10 of its last 11 games and has the best record in the Major Leagues at 30-14.
"I've never had a starting pitcher throwing 99 [mph] in the ninth inning," Leyland said.
While it was Verlander's night in the spotlight, Leyland was most pleased by the mental approach his club showed after coming off a banner homestand and facing a struggling Royals club that has now dropped 10 in a row.
The Tigers didn't want to give Kansas City an early opening to get off the mat and Verlander's dominance -- plus a five-run rally with two outs and nobody on in the second -- accomplished the mission. No letdown.
"We talked about it before the game," Leyland said. "Win or lose, I felt this might have to be our best effort mentally."
Kansas City starter Jeremy Affeldt looked good at the beginning, retiring the first five Detroit hitters. But then Craig Monroe drew a walk and Brandon Inge drove an Affeldt changeup into the left-field stands for a 2-0 lead. Marcus Thames and Omar Infante followed with singles and Curtis Granderson went the other way for a three-run homer to left.
That display of instant offense was more than enough for Verlander.
"It just kind of happens that way sometimes," Inge said. "Affeldt is a good pitcher. He had a rough one tonight, but I think he'll have success as a starting pitcher over the long run. I was just fortunate to get out in front a little bit against the changeup and keep it fair. It just seems like that happens for a team when things aren't going well. It seems to snowball pretty quickly."
The Tigers now have nine shutouts, including shutouts in the last two games. It marks the first time Detroit has had back-to-back shutouts since June 21-22, at Minnesota last season.
Detroit is 5-0 against the Royals, which is another mark of a contender. Hammering the team at the bottom is one part of the equation for winning a division title or a wild card slot.
Inge's two-run blast put the Royals on their heels and Granderson's three-run blast knocked them down and out.
"He's got a good swing and can really hit the ball a long way, going to the opposite field," Inge said of Granderson. "He's going to be around for a long time."
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.