After the Detroit Tigers beat the Cleveland Indians by 11 runs last night, we devoted a few words in this space to a discussion of Cleveland starter C.C. Sabathia's stunningly poor start this season. The 2007 AL Cy Young Award winner is, as we mentioned, off to an 0-3, 13.50 ERA start in 2008. Sabathia won 19 games a year ago.
Detroit's Justin Verlander won 18. After the Indians beat Verlander and the Tigers by ten runs tonight, 11-1, we will spend a few moments talking about his stunningly poor start. Like Sabathia, Verlander is 0-3. His ERA isn't embarrassingly high as Sabathia's, but it is at 7.03, which is way larger than Tiger fans would like it to be.
In fairness to Verlander, in his last outing prior to the loss in Cleveland, he was a strike away from having worked 8 complete versus the Chicago White Sox while allowing only 2 runs. But he didn't get that last strike, that final out, and what had been a 1-0 ballgame when the inning began was a 7-0 blowout when it ended.
Hockey great Scotty Bowman used to say that "the goaltenders put the numbers on themselves." It's the same with pitchers. Verlander allowed 4 earned runs in 6 innings while blowing a 3-0 lead in the season opener. He gave up 4 earned in 5.2 IP in his next outing, a 13-2 loss at Comerica Park against Chicago. Then the good outing last Saturday before a not-so-good start against the Indians tonight in which he surrendered 5 earned in 5 innings.
Verlander has started four games this season. The Tigers have lost all four. This from a guy who's won 35 games for Detroit over the past two years. That puts him first on the staff in wins over that stretch, and by a wide margin. Jeremy Bonderman's second on the Detroit Wins list since the start of 2006 with 25.
A word about Zach Miner, who had a another rough outing tonight: 5 runs, all earned, on 5 hits in 1 IP. One thing you can say about Miner so far this year -- when he comes in, somebody on the other team is going to score. Miner has made six appearances this season, and has given up at least one run in five of them. In fairness, in one of those games, the sole run he surrendered was unearned. But the numbers Miner's put on himself have not been good. To say the least. His ERA is, gulp, 15.75. He has allowed four of five inhereted runners to score.
If the Tigers had Joel Zumaya or Fernando Rodney in their bullpen, this wouldn't be as big a deal as it is. But they don't, and nobody knows when (or if) they will. Until those studs return, it's up to Miner to carry the load. So far, it's a load which has proven to be too heavy for him to lift.