CHICAGO -- Justin Verlander doesn't feel as if he is far off the elite level that made him the ace of the Detroit Tigers' staff.
His stats the past month, however, tell a different story.
Verlander has a 4.61 ERA for the season after allowing five or more earned runs in five of his past six starts -- including seven runs in Detroit's 8-2 loss against the Chicago White Sox on Wednesday at U.S. Cellular Field. Verlander threw 122 pitches in just 5 2/3 innings, gave up a long home run to White Sox rookie first baseman Jose Abreu and allowed six runs to score in the sixth.
"You look back at the game, and there's the Abreu hard-hit ball and maybe one or two others really, the whole game," Verlander said. "That was the difference. The difference was that sixth inning, walking a few guys and allowing them to get into a rhythm."
The walks frustrated Verlander most because those haven't been an issue, historically, in his career. They are happening now and leading to some big innings against him. In his past six outings, Verlander allowed 31 earned runs in 32 innings for a whopping 8.72 ERA.
"I mean, it is troublesome, yeah," he said of the walks. "Stop walking guys and allowing guys to have big innings like I did (Wednesday night). That was on me. Without those walks, it's a one-run ballgame, two-run ballgame at best. But a couple guys here and there, put them on base, and then they come up with one big hit and then the game starts to get out of hand."
The good news for the Tigers, who salvaged a 4-0 win Friday against the White Sox in the series finale, is that Verlander doesn't sound like a guy who is struggling with confidence. In fact, it is just the opposite. He looks at several of the recent outings and sees just one bad inning spoiling what would have been a typical Verlander performance.
"I know I sound like a repeating record saying, 'I'm knocking on the door, I'm right there,' but I know I am," he said. "I look at the swings guys are taking and the hits that they had, and they're not squaring up a lot of stuff. It's just I'm putting them in situations to be able to have success with the walks, and I will get better at that."