Verlander Feeling “More In Sync” On The Mound
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ARLINGTON, Texas (CBS SPORTS) – The Detroit Tigers hope Justin Verlander’s latest outing will give him the momentum he needs to get back on track away from home.
Looking to avoid losing three straight road starts for the first time in more than four years, Verlander tries to help the Tigers to a second straight victory over the AL West-leading Texas Rangers on Saturday night.
Though Verlander (12-7, 2.51 ERA) has pitched well after winning the AL MVP and Cy Young Award in 2011, the right-hander has a 5.25 ERA while losing his last two road starts to fall to 6-5 with a 3.36 ERA away from Comerica Park. He has not dropped three straight starts on the road since a five-game skid to open the 2008 season.
Verlander, however, gave up two runs and matched a career high with 14 strikeouts in eight innings of a 7-2 home win over New York on Monday.
“(My last start) felt night-and-day different from my last couple of starts,” Verlander told the Tigers’ official website. “I really felt much more in sync from the get-go.”
That’s certainly something positive to build on in Arlington, where he had a 1.29 ERA in his first three starts before giving up three runs in four innings of a 3-2 loss in Game 1 of the 2011 AL championship series.
He’ll try to help the Tigers (61-52) take this three-game set after winning 6-2 on Friday. Prince Fielder hit a three-run home run and Austin Jackson added an inside-the-park homer as Detroit rallied from an early two-run deficit to avoid a third straight loss.
Fielder has batted .455 (15 for 33) with four homers and 12 RBIs in nine August games after going 0 for 12 in the final four of July.
“When you have Prince in your lineup, you’re always one swing away from getting the game back in your favor,” winning pitcher Max Scherzer said.
Catcher Alex Avila is batting .457 during an 11-game hitting streak. He’s 7 for 14 in his last four versus Texas (65-46), which can use a good start from Derek Holland (7-6, 5.18) to help even the set.
The left-hander is 1-2 with a 7.00 ERA in his last four starts and has allowed six runs in three of those outings, including Sunday in a 7-6, 10-inning loss at Kansas City.
“It’s pathetic,” Holland told the Rangers’ official website. “I’m very upset with myself. I’m supposed to be stepping up and I look like garbage out there.”
Holland also has struggled to keep the ball in the park at home, giving up eight homers while going 1-2 with an 8.18 ERA in his last four starts there.
He does not have a decision while posting a 6.35 ERA in three starts – all at home – against the Tigers, including two in the ALCS last season.
Texas’ Nelson Cruz had two hits Friday but left with lower back stiffness. He is 8 for 14 in his last four games.
“I think he’ll be a player (Saturday), we’ve just got to wait and see,” manager Ron Washington said.
Teammate Michael Young is batting .357 (15 for 42) during a 10-game hitting streak. Including playoffs, he is 8 for 33 (.242) with 10 strikeouts against Verlander.
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