Detroit pitcher Justin Verlander and Tampa Bay left fielder Carl Crawford use their respective strengths to dominate their opponents and they shared American League Player of the Week honors, making the two the hottest under-25 duo this past week.
Verlander had a week of firsts. On May 23, he became the first Tigers rookie in four seasons to throw a complete-game shutout, notching seven strikeouts in an 8-0 win at Kansas City. It was the first shutout of the 23-year-old's career, and also the first by any Tiger since teammate Jeremy Bonderman went the distance in 2004.
"I wanted to be out there," Verlander said after the game. "Most of all, I'm glad I got a win for the team. And personally, I couldn't be more excited. Hopefully, it's one of many to come."
Verlander hit 99 mph on the radar in the ninth inning, proving his arm could handle manager Jim Leyland's decision to leave him in the full 27 outs. The velocity that late in the game was something Leyland said he'd never seen in 43 years of professional baseball.
On Saturday, Verlander slipped once but the Grady Sizemore homer in the fourth was the only run Cleveland, the Majors' second-highest scoring team, would get in the Tigers' 3-1 win, marking Detroit's 15th victory in 16 games. He worked seven innings and scattered seven hits, and registered 100, 99 and 97 on the radar.
"It's a pretty special feeling," Verlander said. "I got in here and Mr. [president/general manager Dave] Dombrowski congratulated me. I didn't even know what for yet. It's exciting. It's pretty special, especially for a starter, because it's hard for us. You have to fall on the right days to get two [starts] a week usually and have two pretty good starts. They said not to take it lightly, because it's pretty special. I'm excited about it."
Verlander, the second-overall selection in the 2004 First-Year Player Draft, finished the week with a 2-0 record and a 0.56 ERA over 16 innings pitched. He went 4-1 with a 1.73 ERA over 36 1/3 innings pitched in May.
"One of the best arms on a starting pitcher that I've seen. Ever," said Indians starter Paul Byrd. "And I've been around a long time. You don't see too many guys throwing 100."
Verlander's no slouch on the pickoff move either. He had four successful attempts through Monday, putting him in a tie with White Sox lefty Mark Buerhle for tops in the Majors and prompting pitching coach Chuck Hernandez to call Verlander's art "God-given athletic ability, just like his fastball."
"He's got quick feet," Hernandez said. "He's an excellent athlete, and he gets the feet moving."
Crawford's feet rarely stopped moving for Tampa Bay, as the 24-year-old stole eight bases last week for Tampa Bay, four in one game alone.
"It's a nice honor, I definitely didn't expect for this kind of week to happen; I'm happy it did," Crawford said. "You always enjoy being player of the week when you can get an award like that."
The 2004 AL All-Star went 5-for-5 in a 10-8 win over Toronto on Wednesday night, scoring five runs, stealing four bases -- all career highs -- and adding a two-run homer to cap things off. Two nights later in Boston, Crawford homered in the fourth and eighth innings for the first multi-homer game in his career.
Crawford credits extra work with hitting coach Steve Henderson for his recent success.
"I just found a way to use my bottom hand more and be more effective," Crawford said. "I just think that the way that I'm coming to the ball is just a better path to the ball than I was taking early on. I could have been doing that earlier. I don't know if that has anything to do with me being hot. I'm just taking a better swing now."
En route to his first weekly award, Crawford led the AL with a .484 batting average (15-for-31) through the week's seven games to raise his season average a full 20 points to .297. It's the second straight player of the week award for Tampa Bay, as 22-year-old lefty Scott Kazmir won the honors a week prior.
Other candidates considered were the Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez (.435 average, 4 HR, 11 RBIs), Boston left fielder Manny Ramirez (.476 average, 4 HR, 10 RBIs) and Cleveland lefty C.C. Sabathia (1-0, 0.00 ERA).
Dawn Klemish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Michael Gluskin and Jason Beck contributed to this report. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less