–RHP Justin Verlander has won seven consecutive starts and nine decisions in a row to improve to 11-3. He was undefeated in June. “He didn’t have his best stuff, and he still won,” C Alex Avila said of Verlander’s outing Thursday over the Mets. “Although 98 percent of pitchers would take that stuff.” Verlander was nearly at 100 pitches through five innings but managed to stick around to finish seven having thrown 120. He gave up seven hits and one run, walked two and struck out six.
“It’s a lot easier to pitch without your best stuff if you have a 3-4 run lead,” Verlander said. “My tempo and rhythm were kind of in and out all day. I’d find it and lose it, find it and lose it.” Still, Verlander has lasted at least seven innings and allowed two runs or fewer in each of his last seven starts.
–C Alex Avila contributed a tiebreaking sacrifice fly in the third inning as Detroit scored three runs to take a 4-1 lead over the Mets. He was fouling off pitches with the bases loaded and one out, clearly trying to push a pitch to left and get the run in. Eventually that’s what happened; Avila lifted a 2-2 pitch to left that brought in the run that broke a 1-1 deadlock. He also did a nice job of blocking Lucas Duda off the plate after the Mets first baseman tripled to lead off the seventh. Duda was thrown out at the plate trying to score on a fly to left by Josh Tole. Avila’s left leg was a little too exposed to possible damage, however, which is something his manager and third base coach, both former catchers, will remind him of.
–LHP Charlie Furbush will replace LHP Phil Coke in the rotation beginning Monday night in Anaheim.
“I can’t tell you it’s going to work or not work,” manager Jim Leyland said. “I’m not smart enough to know that. All of a sudden, you’re putting a young guy in a pennant race? I don’t know. I put (RHP Joel) Zumaya and (RHP Justin) Verlander in a pennant race in 2006, and they did all right. I think he’ll do fine. Do I expect him to tear it up? No. But do I expect him to be good? Yeah, I do. I think he’ll be OK.”
Furbush was 1-1 with a 2.49 ERA in 12 relief appearances for Detroit after being called up from the minors, where the 2007 fourth-round draft choice out of Louisiana State had been starting.
“I’ve been a starter my whole career,” Furbush said, “so I’m just going to do the same thing I’ve always done as a starter and get back in that routine.”
He has a decent fastball and good complementary pitches, and he hasn’t looked completely overwhelmed in his relief appearances.
–LHP Phil Coke, winless in 12 starts since his only victory April 14 as a member of Detroit’s rotation, is being sent back to the bullpen in hopes he can duplicate the success he had in relief the last two seasons with the Tigers. “I’ve done everything I can possibly think to do,” Coke said. “I’m not 100 percent happy because I am giving everything I’ve got and I’m coming up short, and it looks really bad. My ERA, my record, walks to strikeouts — who cares what the numbers say? I’m giving everything I’ve got, and I’m coming up short, period. Foot’s fine. I’m fine. I’m a little irritated right now, but I’m fine. Everything’s going to be fine.”
Coke was shelled for 10 hits and seven earned runs in four innings Wednesday night. “It could go two ways,” manager Jim Leyland said. “It could be like going home for him, where everything’s fine. Or it could be, ‘I let people down.’ But it’s the right thing to do.”
–RF/LF Andy Dirks made it three home runs in three games with a solo blow with one out in the fifth, giving Detroit a 5-1 lead. “I’m definitely not a power hitter,” Dirks said. “But if I get me a pitch in the right location, I can definitely hit ’em out of the park.” Dirks now has six home runs in limited playing time this season. He opened the game in right and shifted to left in the ninth inning. He gets starts against some right-handed pitchers and late-inning playing time for defense.
–INF Don Kelly returned to a position on the field after a brief interlude on the mound. Kelly was the starter at third base in place of Brandon Inge, who entered the game in the eighth inning for defense. Kelly pitched a mop-up third of an inning Wednesday night in the ninth inning. Retiring the only batter he faced means he’ll forever be listed in the encyclopedias as having a 0.00 ERA.
–2B Ramon Santiago got a start in place of 2B Ryan Raburn as manager Jim Leyland went for a more defensive-oriented lineup with RHP Justin Verlander pitching. Santiago, whose batting average was sinking toward Raburn’s, around .200, lined an RBI single to right as part of Detroit’s three-run third inning. He also singled in the fifth. Santiago produces the best results when played in short spurts.
BY THE NUMBERS
7 — Consecutive wins turned in by RHP Justin Verlander in as many starts, including all six he made in June. In each of the seven, Verlander went at least seven innings, and he never allowed more than two runs.
QUOTE TO NOTE
“(Justin) Verlander was a little more antsy, but I would be too if I just saw 40 hits in two days.” — Manager Jim Leyland, on his ace’s seven innings of seven-hit, one-run ball in a win over a Mets team that had just pounded Detroit for 30 runs on 38 hits in two games.
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