By Steve Keating
DETROIT (Reuters) - Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander made his best pitch but could not convince manager Jim Leyland to send him out for Game Four of American League Championship Series against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday.
After Detroit lost the first two games of the best-of-seven series in Texas, the hard-throwing right-hander was determined to get another start and lobbied to start Game Four knowing there might not be a Game Five.
A Tigers win on Tuesday, however, ended the discussion and assures Verlander another shot on Thursday when the Tigers will either be facing elimination or have a chance to take a 3-2 lead back to Arlington with a World Series berth on the line.
"I told (Leyland) I would be ready. I told him if he needs me, put me out there," Verlander, told reporters. "He just kept saying no, no, no.
"I finally went in there and said, 'hey, I'm going to prepare to throw Game Four. You make the decision after that. I'll just let you know I'll be ready.'"
Armed with a fastball that often hits 100 mph, Verlander clinched the American League pitching Triple Crown with the most wins (24), the best earned run average (2.40) and the most strikeouts (250) during the regular season.
Throughout the postseason, Leyland has stuck to his guns and refused to bow to pressure and rush Verlander back to the mound on short rest.
"I think he (Verlander) is tired," said Leyland. "That's why he's not pitching today. I think he wants to pitch. I admire that.
"But when I had a meeting with my coaches, we sat down and talked, we really truly believed that this is the best way to go because we think this is the best thing for Justin Verlander and in turn that means it's the best thing for the team."
With two postseason starts cut short by rain, Verlander has tossed just 13 innings over the last two weeks and has yet to hit his stride.
The forecast calls for more showers on Thursday, when Verlander is scheduled to go up against Rangers left-hander C.J. Wilson (16-7).
Regardless of the forecast, the Tigers ace says it will not impact his pre-game routine.
"Just try and keep pretty much to the same routine," shrugged Verlander. "When I'm at home, I do eat at Taco Bell, as weird as that sounds.
"I'm not the healthiest eater in the world.
"That and just get a good night's sleep. That's about it."
While Tigers fans will be counting on Verlander to deliver a victory and get the series back to Texas, Leyland put Game Five into perspective.
"You have to win four games," said Leyland. "Somebody else has got to win games.
"Just because Justin is pitching doesn't guarantee you're going to win the game."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)