It was billed as a great pitching match up tonight - 23 year old Rookie of the Year candidate Justin Verlander versus former Cy Young Johann Santana. They did not disappoint. Both were brilliant in different ways. Santana pitched 8 innings, allowed 4 hits and 1 walk and struck out 12. Justin Verlander also pitched 8 innings, gave up 6 hits and 0 walks but struck out nobody. Santana was dramatically dominant while Verlander just efficiently got guys out. It was 0-0 for 7 1/2 innings.
Chris Shelton worked the only walk of the game against Santana with one out in the bottom of the 8th. Another out later, Vance Wilson came to plate and just about everyone in the park figured it would be scoreless going into 9th. Wilson thought differently though. He hit a shot to left field which was an obvious home run as soon as it hit the bat. The Tigers had the lead 2-0 after 8. Todd Jones gave us the usual roller coaster ride in the 9th allowing 2 runners to reach base but he hung on the get the save.
This was a beautiful game to watch. It was a classic pitcher's duel between two exciting young pitchers. The backup catcher got the home run in the 8th to win it. It was the kind of game that memories are made of. It felt like 1984. I was 21 again.
Justin Verlander now has a 3.18 ERA in 51 innings this year. He has 7 quality starts (6 or more innings and 3 or fewer unearned runs allowed) in 8 starts . Verlander has surprised me not just by how good he's been but by the way he has done it. I was expecting him to put up big strikeout totals and alternate between dominant and terrible with bouts of wildness. Instead, he has been very consistent and has a K/BB ratio of 27/14 so he has not struck out many and has not been wild either.
Some people on the message boards are a little concerned about his lack of strikeouts. Normally, I'd agree with them but this kid has the ability to strike out more. He's not a soft tosser or a pitcher with questionnable stuff. I believe he is working on his command and control and there has also been talk about a minor blister problem preventing him from throwing his best breaking stuff. The strikeouts will come. Right now, he's doing fine without them.