Justin Verlander pitched his third career shutout last night in a 1-0 gem against former nemesis Cleveland. Verlander, who had a 9.00 ERA after four starts this season, is 3-0 with a 0.39 ERA in his last three outings (23 IP). During that span, he has 31 Ks and 5 BBs. Foes are batting .141 vs. Verlander and have a .369 OPS. Yes, .369 OPS.
Of course, Verlander got a little help last night. Curtis Granderson saved the game by taking away a 2-run homer from Grady Sizemore in the ninth inning.
Still, Verlander seems to be back challenging hitters and throwing gas. He has fanned at least 9 batters in three consecutive starts for the first time in his career. I believe Verlander has credited getting comfortable with his mechanics as a key to his recent success. According to fangraphs.com, Verlander's fastball is averaging 95.4 mph, which is well above last year's 93.6 and in the neighborhood of his 95.1 in 2006 (when he was 17-9 with a 3.63 ERA).
Also, Verlander seems to have added a slider to his repertoire. He's not throwing it much, but it's an 89-90 mph weapon.
Finally, Verlander's first-pitch strike percentage is 62.2, which is much better than the 57.8 of last year. Furthermore, batters are making contact at lower rates, both inside and outside the strike zone, than at any point in Verlander's career.