Justin Verlander hasn't been himself in his last two starts. Should you worry?

Of course, you should. But choose the right reason to do it.

Let's discard this reason first: His health.

Verlander is not hurt. His arm isn't sore. He said Thursday night, after his abysmal outing, he's been feeling "completely healthy."

And because he hit 99 mph on the speed gun, his velocity serves as testament to his health.

In fact, manager Jim Leyland viewed it a positive "because I don't have to answer questions about his velocity any more."

But an ace not pitching well is still an ace to worry about -- because his team can't be the same, and won't be the same, until he's winning games again.

Troubling trends

It's the same as in most sports. If a quarterback stinks for two consecutive games, but says he's fine, you don't worry about his health. You worry that while he's figuring it out, his team pays a price.

It takes the highest caliber player to warrant such concern, but Verlander ranks as that. One misstep raises an eyebrow; two creates questions.

When he walks two batters with the bases loaded in the same game, equaling the number of bases-loaded walks he issued in the first 239 starts of his career -- and when those two walks follow a start in which he did it once -- A) you're stunned and B) you ask what's wrong?

When he allows seven runs in one inning, as he did in the third inning of Thursday night's 10-4 loss to the Texas Rangers -- the most runs he's allowed in any single inning of his career — you don't just shrug your shoulders and say "it happens."

Because it doesn't happen.

Not to Justin Verlander

So you should be concerned that it did.

When he's a strike away from getting out of a rocky inning with the score tied, but serves up a nothing 0-2 pitch that results in a two-run double, as he did to Mitch Moreland, you don't just say "hmm, that's unusual," you say, "Uh oh, what's going on?"

And when Verlander follows that double by giving up a three-run home run to a struggling Geovany Soto, hitting .170 because he's 1-for-18 at the time, you don't just say, "That's bad," you say "man, that's strangely bad."

And because it was strangely bad, following a start in which Verlander walked five in a 7-6 loss to Cleveland, it makes his next start (in Cleveland) all the more important.