|Justin Verlander: Nine strikeouts, no walks|
in eight innings. He threw 126 pitches.
As I noted earlier this month when the Tigers changed pitching coaches, Verlander this year had learned to hold back his best stuff for when he needed it. He demonstrated that ability on Thursday, cruising along with a fastball around 93 most of the time mixed in with one of the best curveballs in the league. But when he needed it, he had 97-99 mph heaters to throw.
That much of the time it came with Jim Thome at the plate struck me. Go back a bit to last season, when the White Sox opted not to bring the big DH back in part because they had seen his bat slow down in 2009. When he hit that big August homer off a Matt Thornton fastball, one of the things Ozzie Guillen said was that Thome wouldn't have hit that pitch the year before.
I don't think he can now, either. Whether that's age or back problems or both, I don't know, but I just don't think Thome's getting to high velocity pitches as well as he did in 2010.
Which makes a matchup with Velander's velocity more emphatically unfair to Thome.
The more time Joe Mauer spends at first base, the less time Trevor Plouffe sees in right field. (Mauer at first means Michael Cuddyer in right.) And now that Jason Kubel is ready to come off the DL -- he's to be reactivated today -- it would seem a rather safe bet that there will be even fewer at-bats available for Plouffe.
This figures to be another test of Ron Gardenhire's willingness to use platoon strategy. Kubel and Thome both struggle against left-handed pitchers. If Plouffe is indeed a hitter worthy of time in a corner outfield, he should at least get starts against southpaws. But between Gardenhire's reluctance to platoon and Plouffe's thin track record as a quality hitter -- a track record essentially limited to his 2011 performance in Triple A -- I doubt he'll get that opportunity.
Not that platooning is a factor the rest of this series. Detroit will start righties the next three games. And Mauer, who has played first base the last three games, figures to move back behind the plate.