By The Associated Press
KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander has shown that he can overwhelm hitters who have faced him dozens of times.
What about hitters who have never batted against him? What are they in for — even if each is an All-Star?
Verlander will start Tuesday night’s All-Star Game at Kauffman Stadium, American League manager Ron Washington announced Monday. Of the nine hitters in the National League starting lineup, three have never faced Verlander: Buster Posey, Pablo Sandoval and Dan Uggla.
“They are in for a treat,” said Texas All-Star second baseman Ian Kinsler. “Justin Verlander is what an ace is. The velocity he has on his fastball, and the way he commands it on both sides of the plate, makes it difficult in itself to face him.
“But then you add his secondary stuff on top of that,” said Kinsler, who is 3-for-21 off Verlander in regular-season play. “He has one of the best curves in the game. He can spike it (in the dirt) or throw it for a strike. You forget about his change-up.
“When you get to two strikes, it’s basically what he wants to put you away with, not necessarily what you want to hit.”
Three other members of the NL lineup have never gotten a hit off Verlander. Overall, the NL lineup is 6-for-42 against him. One of those hits was a fly ball by Joey Votto that got lost in the sun.
For all these NL hitters who know little or nothing about how to deal with Verlander, Kinsler said, “I don’t have any advice for them.” He said that not because he didn’t want to give away a secret. He said that because he truly didn’t have anything he could tell them about how to hit Verlander.
Verlander sat on a podium Monday with, among others, NL manager Tony La Russa as the All-Star managers announced their starting pitchers and batting orders. As he did, Verlander adopted one of La Russa’s favorite mantras.
If you saw La Russa in the afternoon before his team’s 7 p.m. game, and if you asked him how he was doing, he would typically reply, “Ask me at 10 o’clock.” In other words, the outcome of the three-hour game would determine his mood. Before a 1 p.m. game one time, his answer was, “Ask me about 4 o’clock.” And that was a spring-training game.
When Verlander — who has started Game 1 of the World Series, has won the rookie of the year and Cy Young and MVP, has won the ERA title, has won two strikeout titles and has thrown two no-hitters — was asked Monday where the All-Star start ranks on his lifetime list, he said this with La Russa about 20 feet to his left:
“I’ll tell you when it’s over. Obviously, I’m pretty excited about it. I actually was just sitting here going over their lineup, thinking about how I’m going to pitch these guys.
“Got to get ready. Can’t really think about how I’m going to feel about it until I’m done.”
Verlander has pitched in two All-Star Games, each time for one inning apiece, each time as the fourth AL pitcher of the game. “What an honor it is to start my first All-Star Game,” Verlander said. “I’m going to relish every moment. As I’m sure Mr. Washington can attest, that home-field advantage in the World Series is huge, and hopefully I can help be a part of getting the American League that home-field advantage.”
The league that wins the All-Star Game gets home-field advantage for that year’s World Series. The AL has lost the last two All-Star Games, and the Rangers have gone 1-5 on the road in losing the last two World Series. That’s one reason Washington picked Verlander to start the All-Star Game, beyond all the other reasons. He wants the home-field advantage for the World Series.
Kinsler said he is curious how hard Verlander will throw Tuesday night.
Verlander typically keeps his fastball in the low 90s early in the game as he paces himself. He reaches for the high 90s and maybe even 100 when he gets in trouble and when he enters the late innings.
In the All-Star Game, the pitchers typically throw only a few innings. Washington said Monday that Verlander will throw two innings and no more. Verlander mused last week over whether he would come out firing full speed in the All-Star Game if he started it. Kinsler said Monday: “I hope he lets loose.”