Verlander improving despite 2-1 record

The Sports Xchange

The goal is to get better.

There are many ways to measure "better" but Justin Verlander isn't interested in the statistical part.

Verlander got a no-decision Wednesday in his eight-inning performance against Kansas City and thus kept his record for the season at 2-1.

He said entering the season he might not win as many games or necessarily have better statistics but still might feel he's a better pitcher.

Verlander never enjoyed a good April before last season, when he went 2-3 with a 3.64 ERA for March and April combined. This year Verlander was 2-1 with a 2.41 ERA for April.

He reduced his season's ERA to 2.38 by allowing two runs over eight innings Wednesday.

"Wins are a nice personal thing," Verlander said. "But my job is give my team a chance to win. As long as we win, that's fine. My job isn't to worry about how many runs we score. My job is to give us a chance to win."

Last year Verlander improved, as his Cy Young and MVP awards attest. More than that, though, he made a conscious effort to get more economical with his pitches so he could last longer into games.

He has continued this year his habit of opening games with his fastball in the low 90s on the radar gun, then ratcheting it up as necessary.

His high pitch count for the season was 131 -- with four of his last five pitches gunned in triple digits.

On Wednesday, his 123rd pitch of the game was his only triple-digit fastball.

For the most part starting low enables him to husband his strength for the later innings. The movement on his fastball and his ability to throw it where he wants lets him -- not all the time -- post early low pitch counts because hitters are putting the ball in play. The strikeouts often come later, when his curve and changeup are honed and he can mix his fastball at the right time.

Overall it would seem the numbers are saying Verlander is a better pitcher now than he was a year ago.

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