Leyland shrugs off Verlander's struggles

Leyland shrugs off Verlander's struggles

ANAHEIM -- The pitches are there for Justin Verlander. The results clearly are not.

After Detroit's Opening Day starter struggled through five innings with seven runs allowed on nine hits on Tuesday night against the Angels, manager Jim Leyland said he believes Verlander will be fine.

"Sometimes you just want something too much, too bad" Leyland said. "And that's the only thing going on with him right now. He just wants it so bad. That's the only problem.

"He's going to be outstanding for us. He just wants it so bad right now. I think sometimes you get in a little stretch like that, and you're waiting for something bad to happen. He's going to be fine."

Verlander's fastball consistently hit the mid-90s on the Angel Stadium radar gun, topping out at 97 but also going as low as 92 on a couple of pitches. He went with a heavy dose of fastballs during a 36-pitch opening inning, but his three runs that frame came on a full-count offspeed pitch that Kendry Morales took deep to right.

Verlander threw 66 of his 104 pitches for strikes, but Angels hitters made contact with more than half of those. Twenty-one pitches were fouled off to extend at-bats, while another 17 were put in play.

"This team does that a lot," Verlander said, "but it didn't bother me. They just put the bat on the ball, and it seemed like when they did, it was a hit."

It's better than deep pitch counts caused by balls and walks, as happened so often last year. And in Verlander's defense, his fifth-inning woes came from four straight ground ball singles. Still, the effect is the same.

"I'm in a rut -- a baseball rut, I guess," Verlander said on Wednesday. "I feel like, not so much today, but the last few, I've been throwing the ball pretty well. Today wasn't as good, wasn't quite as sharp, but that fifth inning was the game for me. Trying to get quick outs, I got some ground balls, and they found holes."

Jason Beck is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.