LAKELAND, Fla. (AP) — Tagged for a home run on his third pitch of the game, Justin Verlander quickly reverted to form.

The AL MVP and Cy Young winner struck out eight in 3 2/3 innings and the Detroit Tigers beat the Baltimore Orioles 4-2 Thursday.

Verlander gave up one run and three hits, including the homer by Endy Chavez. He faced 14 batters and has an 0.93 ERA this spring.

“I was starting to fall behind in the first,” Verlander said. “I am still trying to get my arm stretched out and find some consistency, but I am throwing a lot of off-speed stuff right now. Opening day is right in the back of my mind.”

Verlander picked up plenty of hardware and sat through plenty of awards dinners during the offseason, but said once he reported to Lakeland, he put it all behind him.

Verlander went 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA last season.

“I can’t look at last year’s numbers at all,” Verlander said. “All I need to do is keep trying to get better. I have turned the page from last year and I can’t pay attention to the numbers from last year.”

Brian Matusz had his second straight solid outing for Baltimore, striking out six in four scoreless innings. He allowed two hits and walked none.

Matusz went 1-9 with a 10.69 ERA in 12 starts for the Orioles last season. He said he is being cautious, but feels he is ready to get back to Baltimore after spending time in the minor leagues last season.

In his previous exhibition start, he threw four shutout innings against the Phillies.

“I had a good outing last time out,” Matusz said. “It’s always important to come back with a solid outing after a good one. It felt good and I was just trying to have fun. Every game has been a confidence booster for me.”

Leyland liked what he saw from Matusz.

“He was very impressive,” Leyland said. “That’s the best I have seen him.”

The Orioles badly need starting pitching. They have only two returning starters from last season that won at least 10 games– Jake Arrieta and Zach Britton. Britton hasn’t pitched yet this spring because of shoulder soreness.

Chavez had two hits for Baltimore.

The Tigers scored three in the sixth to take the lead. Danny Worth had two hits and an RBI for Detroit, and raised his spring average to .455.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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