Valverde Spoils a Verlander Gem

The Detroit Tigers are at an impasse with their bullpen, specifically with closer Jose Valverde.

After another gem by Justin Verlander, Valverde surrendered a game-tying two-out, two-strike home run to Lorenzo Cain in the ninth inning in an eventual loss to the Kansas City Royals. How special was this start for Verlander? What exactly did Valverde do to spoil this effort?

How Justin Verlander Should Have Got the Win vs the Royals

Verlander had an overpowering fastball, fueled by superb movement. He got batters to swing at 38 percent of his fastballs thrown out of the zone, his highest fastball chase rate this season. Verlander’s fastball had its most movement of the season, setting season highs in both horizontal break (-7.4 inches) and vertical break (11.8 inches).

Tigers Pitching
This Season

Verlander also kept hitters off balance, allowing zero "hard-hit" balls in play for the first time this season.

It’s the third time he has done that in a game over the last five seasons (also in 2009 and 2012).

To further illustrate how special this Verlander effort was, he did not face a batter with a runner in scoring position for the first time this season.

Royals were 0-for-8 and had five strikeouts with a man on first base against Verlander.

How Jose Valverde Blew the Save vs the Royals

Valverde pitched as pooly as Verlander pitched great. Cain's game-tying homer came on a splitter from Valverde, the only non-fastball he threw today.

Valverde has thrown 20 splitters in his last six games and allowed four homers among those 20 pitches. He allowed zero homers on the 21 splitters he threw in his first 12 appearances of the season.

Cain's homer also came on a pitch on the outer third of the strike zone. Righties were 1-13 (.077) vs Valverde in at-bats ending in a pitch thrown to that location this season before the homer, including a flyout by Salvador Perez for the first out of the ninth inning.


This was the sixth walk-off loss for the Tigers this season, tied with the Marlins and Mariners for most in the MLB.

Jose Valverde continues to struggle, as Wednesday marked his eighth blown save in last two seasons. In 2011, he was a perfect 49-for-49 on save opportunities.

This is the fifth time in his career that Justin Verlander has pitched at least seven scoreless innings and got a no-decision. No other Tigers pitcher in the Live Ball era (since 1920) has more than two such career games.

Verlander now has three losses in quality starts this season, already more than the two he had all last year.