Justin Verlander snapped an unusual streak on Saturday evening when he whiffed the Indians’ Bradley Zimmer to end the fourth inning. The strikeout was Verlander’s first of the month, following a rare strikeout-free appearance against the Indians last Sunday. Until Zimmer’s three-pitch strikeout, the Tigers’ right-hander had faced 41 straight batters without fanning a single one, a streak that dated back to the sixth inning of his start on June 27.
Given the way Verlander pitched the rest of the night, however, it’s unlikely that there’s any significant cause for concern. He touched 98 m.p.h. with his fastball and held the Indians scoreless through four innings, eventually giving up a run on Michael Brantley‘s RBI double in the fifth. His lone strikeout to Zimmer seemed to open the floodgates, and he exited in the seventh inning after issuing six hits, four walks and six strikeouts.
It’s been an uncharacteristically rough season for the 34-year-old, who’s coming off of a Cy Young-worthy campaign in 2016. He entered Saturday with a 4.96 ERA, 4.3 BB/9 and 8.4 SO/9 through 98 innings, and his 92 strikeouts are only good for 24th-most among qualified major league starters — just 162 shy of the league-leading mark he set last year. While he’s struggled to produce the sub-4.00 ERA of seasons past, Verlander is still drawing substantial interest around the league and is expected to command a hefty return should the Tigers decide to push forward with their rebuild this summer. He’ll look to bounce back in the second half when he returns to the mound in the next couple of weeks.