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Verlander Looks To Improve Recent ERA

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BALTIMORE  – Justin Verlander isn’t happy with his recent performances.

Facing the Baltimore Orioles, especially at Camden Yards, would seem to be an ideal way to change his mood.

The Detroit Tigers ace will try to continue his dominance of the surging Orioles on Saturday.

Verlander (6-4, 3.68 ERA) is 2-2 with an ugly 8.69 ERA in his last four starts after going 4-2 with a 1.55 ERA in his first seven.

“I expect the bar to be high,” said Verlander, the 2011 AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner. “That’s where I set it for myself.”

The right-hander’s performances have drawn sharp criticism lately, but he was better Monday, collecting a season-high 13 strikeouts while yielding three runs in seven innings of a 6-5 win over Pittsburgh.

Still, Verlander wasn’t satisfied.

“Better? Yes. Where I want it? No,” he said. “You have a couple bad starts, and the world’s on your shoulder – ‘What’s wrong? What’s wrong?’ – but hey, that comes with the territory. I’m OK with that. I can deal with it.”

Nothing has been wrong when Verlander faces the Orioles (31-24). He’s 7-0 with a 2.85 ERA in 11 career starts against them, going 5-0 with a 2.05 ERA in six at Baltimore.

The Orioles, however, have won eight of 11 and are looking to match their season-high four-game winning streak set May 4-8.

That seemed unlikely after they trailed by two in the ninth inning of Friday’s series opener, but Chris Dickerson capped a four-run rally with a three-run homer in a stirring 7-5 win.

It was the second time in the last three games that Baltimore used a big inning to rally for a victory.

“It’s an amazing feeling, just to contribute in such a big situation,” Dickerson said. “This team just claws back every single time. I’m just so happy I could cap it off for them.”

The Tigers (29-24) matched a season high with their fourth straight loss.

“We obviously let one get away,” manager Jim Leyland said.

Orioles center fielder Adam Jones is hitting .349 with five homers, 11 runs and seven RBIs over the past 10 games. He had three hits, including a two-run shot Friday, giving him a .467 average with seven RBIs and 11 runs in his last eight home meetings with Detroit.

Jones, though, is 1 for 21 with seven strikeouts versus Verlander.

Jason Hammel (7-2, 4.98) starts for Baltimore looking to match his win total from all of last year.

The right-hander has rebounded from a dismal stretch by winning his last two starts, allowing four runs in 14 2-3 innings. His latest performance was his best of the year, as he limited Washington to two runs over eight innings and struck out a season-high eight in a 6-2 win Monday.

“For the year, definitely the best start,” Hammel said. “It was all because of the fastball command.”

Hammel is facing the Tigers for the first time since July 13, when a knee injury forced him to exit in the fourth inning of a 7-2 home loss. He needed arthroscopic surgery, and didn’t return until September.

He’s won two of his last three starts versus Detroit despite a 5.28 ERA.

Miguel Cabrera – 4 for 10 off Hammel – hit his 16th home run Friday, leaving him three behind Baltimore’s Chris Davis for the major league lead.

Cabrera leads the majors with a .372 average and 61 RBIs and is batting .457 with five homers and 10 RBIs in his last nine visits to Camden Yards.

Copyright 2013 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

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