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Tigers’ Justin Verlander looked sharp on Opening Day vs. White Sox

The Tigers’ ace was impressive in his 2017 debut.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Chicago White Sox Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Verlander did exactly what the Detroit Tigers expected from their ace on Opening Day — well, the one where baseball was played — looking very sharp against the Chicago White Sox. The veteran gave up just six hits and two runs in 6 13 innings. He struck out 10 and walked two over 102 pitches, picking up right where he left off last season.

No stranger to openers

Opening up the season for the Tigers is nothing new for Verlander, who has now done so nine times. The results have been mixed throughout his career, and he owns a 4.20 ERA and 1.14 WHIP on Opening Day. He has averaged 8.9 strikeouts per nine innings during these nine starts, but he bested that mark on Tuesday, setting a career-high in strikeouts in his first start of the season.

Rewriting April

Tigers fans should be encouraged by a good first start by Verlander. April has often been rough over the course of his career, and his ERA, K-BB percentage, and xFIP are all at their worst during the opening month. April 2016 was no exception for Verlander, where he averaged fewer than six innings per start with a 5.46 ERA and 4.70 FIP. Perhaps his Opening Day start is a sign of him reversing this trend in 2017.

Jumping in

The pitch data behind Verlander’s start is just as promising. Per Brooks Baseball, he averaged 94.2 miles per hour on his four-seam fastball, with a maximum of 96.4 mph. In 2016, he averaged 94.3 miles per hour during the season and was a couple mph slower in the month of April, so Tuesday’s numbers were not expected. Verlander also notched 11 whiffs against the White Sox, good for a 22.9 percent rate.

Good things to come

Only so much can be taken away from one start, but seeing a strong outing from Verlander is a great sign for the Tigers. The ace ended last season on an absolute tear, posting a 1.98 ERA, 3.04 FIP, and 10.8 strikeouts per nine innings from July until the end of the season. Seeing a pitcher who has traditionally struggled early on — including a subpar April just 12 months ago — start off on the right foot is a big boost for the Tigers.

Opening Day recap!

Posted by Bless You Boys: For Detroit Tigers Fans on Tuesday, April 4, 2017