Memories of Verlander's dud as Max Scherzer prepares for start
A year ago, Justin Verlander did his best to light up the radar gun in the first inning of the All-Star Game. What he did was light up the scoreboard.
Being that Tigers manager Jim Leyland did indeed name Scherzer as the American League's starting pitcher for Tuesday night's 84th edition of the game, that's probably a very excellent move.
Verlander, you'll probably recall, started last year's game in Kansas City and veered from his usual strategy. Treating the game as a lark and figuring the fans wanted to see a show, Verlander embarked upon lighting up the radar gun from the start.
And who's to say he was wrong?
Except ... while trying to hit 100 mph, he served up five first-inning runs to the National Leaguers.
And three months later when his Tigers reached the World Series, it was the Giants who had home-field advantage because of Verlander's, ahem, showmanship.
"Just have fun," is all Verlander told Scherzer this year, and read into THAT as you dare, Tigers fans.
Scherzer is an astounding 13-1 with a 3.19 ERA and an 0.979 WHIP over 19 starts this season.
Leyland noted that record and said, "I don't think I need to explain anything more than that."
"Fans in Detroit know that Max Scherzer has been one of the best pitchers in baseball over the last two years," Verlander said. "The world just hasn't seen it."
The world is about to see it. As long as, um, Scherzer doesn't, well, no offense Justin, but ... follow your blueprint from 2012.
For his part, Scherzer just talked about how much his first All-Star start means to him.
"This is what you dream of, to be in this game," Scherzer said. "And to get the nod and to get the ball over some of your great pitchers. ... We go throughout the season and we see guys who absolutely deal.
"And for Skipper to give me the nod over those guys just means so much to me. I'm excited to pitch in my first game."
Very well said, Mr. Scherzer.
But really, what was Leyland going to do ... turn to Verlander again?
Watch his ace go bananas for the radar gun again?
Tremble in fear that a World Series-hopeful team will watch potential home-field advantage wash away again?
Verlander told me Monday he has no regrets about last year.
"If I had to do it all over again," he said, "I would."
Except ... not quite.
He would have changed one thing: In going out all hyped up to throw heat, he didn't pay enough attention to each individual hitter's tendencies.
"That wasn't a very good combination coming out of the gate," Verlander said. "Throwing that hard, I was erratic."
Whatever, teammate Prince Fielder said, he certainly wasn't going to offer any tips to Scherzer.
"I don't give him any advice during the regular year," Fielder said.
Like everyone else, the slugging first baseman has been ultra-impressed with Scherzer.
"His confidence is higher," Fielder said. "His fastball always has been electric. Now, he's able to attain the strike zone with all of his pitches better."
Fielder and the rest of the large Tigers contingent here -- also including third baseman Miguel Cabrera, shortstop Jhonny Peralta and outfielder Torii Hunter -- hope it is good enough to send the AL on a path toward finally winning one of these things.
"The way the last nine World Series have gone, I think home-field advantage has won seven out of nine times," Leyland said. "Obviously, that doesn't mean it's the seventh game. Last year, we played only four, so I don't know what that means, exactly.
"Obviously, [winning home-field advantage] is a nice touch. ... I think you do live by the old saying there's no place like home. I think that pretty much sums that up. It statistically says that it does give you an advantage."
Verlander has mixed emotions on the topic.
"It's a fun thing to focus on for the fans," he said. "I'm biased, though. I think the team with the best record should have home-field advantage."