This season has been anything but smooth sailing for Justin Verlander.
At most, Verlander has four starts left in the regular season. That means at best he'll finish 16-11.
The only other season Verlander has not won at least 17 games was 2008, when he went 11-17 with a 4.84 ERA.
This season has not been a repeat of that, despite the 4-3 loss to the pesky Kansas City Royals (74-68) Saturday night.
But as long as the Tigers make the playoffs, Verlander (12-11, 3.64 ERA) will have a chance to make his season a memorable one by pitching well then.
At 82-60, the Tigers remain 5 12 games ahead of the Indians in the Central Division.
In past seasons, Verlander has pitched much better in the regular season than he has in the postseason. In 12 postseason starts, Verlander is 6-4 with a 4.22 ERA and 1.24 WHIP.
However, last season Verlander was 3-1 with a 2.22 ERA and 0.78 WHIP in four postseason starts.
In his last outing against the Cleveland Indians, Verlander did not allow a run in seven innings.
Although he allowed four runs on eight hits while walking one and striking out seven in seven innings Saturday, Verlander did not feel that he had regressed since making some changes.
"It's just a tough night but like I said, definitely positive building on what I did (last time)," Verlander told FOX Sports Detroit's John Keating on the post-game show. "I feel like my stuff was again very good. Just 'cause I said I feel good and I feel like the adjustments I've made felt really good, that doesn't necessarily mean I'm going to go out there and throw a shutout. Things happen, guys hit good pitches."
That guy Saturday night was Salvador Perez, the Royals catcher.
Perez hit a 98-mile-an-hour fastball for a two-run home run in the bottom of the sixth for a 4-2 lead that the Royals never relinquished.
"It was a fastball down and in," Verlander said. "Hey, you gotta tip your cap. It was 98 and it was down and it was in. It was a good pitch. He was able to get the barrel on it and elevate it and it got outta here. Obviously, I'm not happy about it but he's a good hitter and was able to do some damage with that."
Catcher Brayan Pena said the Tigers just couldn't score enough for Verlander.
"I think he did a good job," Pena told Keating. "I think that pitch that Perez hit out of the ballpark, it was down. He just got a good swing. Overall, his fastball was good, his fastball command was good. His breaking ball, he struck out a lot of guys. He kept us in the ballgame. I think he did a tremendous job. It's just one of those nights that we couldn't get runs for him."
Verlander has not won since beating the Indians on Aug. 6, but he believes if he continues to pitch the way he has of late, that will change.
"To be honest with you, I felt like the last two -- after the first few innings of the last one and then most of the game this one, it's been really good," Verlander said.
NOTES: Nick Castellanos made his first career major league start in left field and got his first career hit in the fifth.
"It means I got the first one out of the way," Castellanos told Keating. "Just as good as the hit felt, it felt even better scoring that run to put us up 2-1. You've just got to take everything in stride. You can't solely focus much on your individual accomplishments because it's not just a regular September call-up.
"We're trying to clinch as fast as possible. So yeah, it was great, I got a hit, but now I've got to run the bases and try to score because we got somebody on and no outs with a chance to do some damage, You kind of have to put everything behind you and keep playing."
Tigers manager Jim Leyland had Andy Dirks pinch hit for Castellanos later in the game.
"He did fine," Leyland told Keating. "He hit the ball real hard the first time, didn't get anything to show for it. Didn't hit it very hard the second time, got a base hit. The baseball gods took care of him pretty good."
Castellanos has a friend on the other side. He once played on the same team as Royals first baseman Eric Hosmer.
"He was my first baseman in high school," Castellanos said. "He was a senior, I was a sophomore. I played third, he played first. When I was on first, it felt like I was doing base running drills back in my sophomore year. It's really funny how baseball works itself out. Now we're on a major league stage playing together. It was an awesome feeling."