Matthew Pouliot

Mark Buehrle

Mark Buehrle throws two-hitter for ninth career shutout


Mark Buehrle almost single-handedly snapped the Blue Jays’ seven-game losing streak on Thursday, throwing a two-hitter against the Astros for his ninth career shutout.

Buehrle’s previous two shutouts were his two no-hitters, the first against the Rangers on 2007 and the other being a perfect game against the Rays in 2009. He hadn’t thrown a shutout that wasn’t a no-hitter since 2005.

Buehrle, never a big strikeout guy, also fanned nine for just the third time in his stellar career. He struck out 12 Mariners on April 16, 2005, but that was his only double-digit strikeout game. He also had nine strikeouts way back on June 26, 2003 against the Twins.

Buehrle said afterwards that he was inspired to have a quick outing tonight  (the contest took just 2:18); he was slated to attend a Tim McGraw concert following the game.

Justin Verlander has a 4.00 ERA and $167 million coming his way

Justin Verlander

Even though the Tigers still had Justin Verlander signed for two more years, they signed their right-hander to a huge contract this spring that essentially made him the highest-paid pitcher ever. He’ll receive $28 million per year every year from 2015-2019.

That’s kind of a scary thought right now, isn’t it? Verlander gave up seven more runs Thursday in a loss to the White Sox. He fell to 10-8 with a 3.99 ERA for the season. Six times this year he’s allowed at least five earned runs in an outing. Only Mark Buehrle, R.A. Dickey and Jeremy Guthrie, with seven such outings, have done so more frequently.

That’s certainly not to say Verlander has been all bad. He has eight outings in which he’s allowed one or no earned runs, including two this month. His ERA ranks just 24th in the AL, but he is sixth in strikeouts and seventh in innings pitched. He’s hardly been a liability.

What is worrying is that Verlander’s average fastball has tumbled to 92.7 mph this year, according to Fangraphs’ Baseball Info Solutions data. He came in at 94.3 mph in 2012, and he was in the 95-96 mph range each of the three years before that.

Verlander isn’t falling apart, but it seems pretty likely that his peak has already come and gone. Before his Cy Young season in 2011, his career best ERA in six seasons was 3.37 and WHIP was 1.16. The mid-3.00 ERAs seem like the better bet for the future than the mid-2.00s of 2011 and ’12. And that’s probably the optimistic scenario for the Tigers, considering that he was baseball’s hardest working pitcher from 2009-2102.

The Tigers still had Verlander under control for two more years when they extended him this spring. Technically, it was announced as a brand new seven-year, $180 million contract, but in reality, it was a five-year, $140 million extension for 2015-19. At that rate, the deal had very little upside. Verlander needs to remain one of baseball’s best pitchers to justify that kind of salary, and that’s an awful lot to ask. There aren’t many pitchers in history who can claim to have had an eight- or 10-year run as one of baseball’s best.

If not for the extension, the Tigers would currently owe Verlander $27 million through the end of 2014. That sounds a whole lot better to me than $167 million through 2019.

Alex Rodriguez goes on WFAN, says he’s wants to play

New York Yankees Alex Rodriguez talks with manager Joe Girardi while they play Baltimore Orioles in MLB game in New York

It’s hard to imagine that Alex Rodriguez thought this would turn out well.

The beleaguered Rodriguez decided to call into Mike Francesa on WFAN late this afternoon and tell the world that he’s ready to play and that the Yankees are holding him back.

The move comes after Rodriguez took part in a conference call with Yankees management on Thursday afternoon. According to the New York Times, both Rodriguez and the Yankees agreed to a plan that would have A-Rod play in a simulated or minor league game on Aug. 1 and come off the DL a day or two later.

Rodriguez said on WFAN that he agreed to the plan even though he’d rather play tomorrow. Asked whether he still trust the Yankees, he replied, “I’d rather not get into that.”

Rodriguez’s counter comes after a report earlier in the day that he was facing discipline from the Yankees for getting an unauthorized second opinion on his quad injury. These latest public comments are sure to further inflame a relationship with the Yankees that’s already deteoriated to a point beyond which it may never recover. Obviously, the only thing still keeping the two parties together is the $100 million the Yankees owe Rodriguez. One wonders just how much of that they’d now be willing to eat just to get rid of him once and for all.