Justin Verlander was, by no means, outstanding on Monday in the Mets’ 2-1 loss to the Brewers, but he did pitch five scoreless innings.
With the current state of the Mets, that type of stability felt somewhat like a positive, albeit tainted.
“Bit of a grind, I worked on a lot of things, changing some mechanics,” Verlander said following the game. “It was a bit erratic, kind of expected, but hopefully that’s a step in the right direction.”
The veteran right-hander threw 100 pitches in his outing, giving up five hits and two walks while striking out five.
Mechanically, Verlander said he is trying to work on being more deceptive and move away from relying on the slider.
“My release height has been creeping up over the past few years,” Verlander said. “In my mind, I think it maybe got a little too high and lost deceptiveness with that. So, trying to bring it back down a bit.”
Verlander, 40, didn’t allow a run before Drew Smith came in at the top of the sixth, with the reliever returning to the mound for the first time since his 10-game suspension for sticky stuff.
“I knew that was going to be a challenge for him because we were having such quick innings,” manager Buck Showalter said of Verlander. “That was impressive to watch him get through that.”
While there was no bullpen meltdown like on Sunday in Philadelphia, it’s hard to say Verlander’s performance matched the expectations attached to the two-year, $86 million contract he inked with the club in December. Verlander had a 20.5 percent strikeout rate in his nine previous starts this season, marking his lowest rate since 2014 and a far cry from 35.4 percent in his 2019 Cy Young season.
While the nine-time All-Star would’ve liked to have gone deeper than five innings Monday night, he said he saw improvements.
“For me, just looking at some of the pitch shapes and the swing results, I thought it was better,” Verlander said.
Verlander isn’t a major problem, per se, when one looks at the Mets’ laundry list right now. However, his impact on this 2023 season is far less than his 2022 Cy Young season when he put up an AL-leading and career-best 1.75 ERA.
Verlander, who had a no-decision in Monday’s loss, has a 2-4 record as the Mets desperately try to dig themselves out of a deep, deep hole.
“I don’t think I saw this coming, man,” Verlander said. “It’s disappointing for everybody in this room I know, it’s disappointing for the fans. Just gotta keep trying.”