Player of the week: Justin Verlander

In two performances last week — one against the team with the best record in baseball (Boston) and the other against the defending World Series champion (St. Louis) — Verlander proved why he is considered one of the best young pitchers in the game. In 15²/³ innings, he allowed four runs, struck out 10 and walked just a single batter while picking up a couple of key wins for the Detroit Tigers. Verlander (5-1) has a 2.68 ERA, which ranks sixth in the American League. The Tigers are 8-2 in games he has started this season, and he has not been hit with a loss since April 28.

BASEBALL STORYLINES

First, New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi publicly scathes Major League Baseball in USA Today for the deceit in the ongoing steroids scandal, which, considering his notorious past, makes about as much sense as O.J. criticizing our justice system. Then, after the outburst, rumors spread around the league that the Yankees have begun to mull again a clause in the slugger’s contract that could nullify the remainder of his $120 million deal if it is revealed he took steroids after he joined the club in 2001. Giambi, who was called into the commissioner’s office to tell his side of the story in light of the article, might be better served keeping his yap shut and start worrying about his .260 batting average.

A promising opening to the season has quickly descended into an ugly spectacle for Tampa Bay Devil Rays rookie Elijah Dukes. After beginning his career with home runs in his first two games against the Yankees, Dukes was plagued with a hitting slump that has seen his average drop to .231. Off the field, his problems are worse, as it was reported he barged into the middle school his wife works at and allegedly threatened to kill her. Over the last month, Dukes’ wife has twice filed for protection against her husband.

He has said it before and now he is saying it emphatically again. In a recent interview with the Associated Press, Hank Aaron reiterated his stance of not personally attending the game in which Giants slugger Barry Bonds could pass him for the all-time home run record. Aaron said he has no ill will toward Bonds and “wishes him all the luck in the world.” But Aaron also stated that he “will never reconsider his decision” to stay at home during Bonds’ home run chase.

— Will Reisman

KEY SERIES

Indians at Tigers (Today-Sunday): In baseball’s toughest division, these two young teams have started to distance themselves from the pack. Grady Sizemore and the Tribe are off to their best start in over 100 years, while the Tigers seem more than capable of returning to the World Series after their surprise run of a year ago.

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