(AP) — The Detroit Tigers haven’t owned a losing record in over two years and Justin Verlander is aiming to keep it that way.
Verlander looks to build on his best performance of the season Sunday when the Tigers conclude this three-game set with the visiting Baltimore Orioles.
Detroit (45-45) has lost four of its last five games and was limited to Ian Kinsler’s leadoff single in Saturday’s 3-0 defeat. The slump has left the Tigers in danger of dropping below .500 for the first time since they were 1-2 on April 4, 2013.
Verlander (0-2, 5.34 ERA), meanwhile, is making his sixth start since opening the season on the disabled list with a strained right triceps. On July 10, he stifled Minnesota by yielding one run in 7 2-3 innings, but then watched the bullpen get tagged for a seven-run ninth in an 8-6 defeat.
“My last start, I told you guys, ‘Hey, I felt like my stuff’s much better.’ Really just came down to a couple pitches here and there and the little final bit of rust to knock off,” Verlander told MLB’s official website. “I felt like I was really close, and tonight was much better than last time. I was able to get into a rhythm and maintain it.”
He’s 1-2 with a 5.68 ERA in his last three starts against Baltimore (45-45) after going 8-0 with a 2.93 ERA in his first 12.
Kinsler is hitting .365 in the last 13 games after compiling a .186 average over the previous 10. He’s a .327 career hitter versus the Orioles, but he’s 2 for 10 with a homer against scheduled starter Miguel Gonzalez.
Baltimore has lost 11 of its last 15 games but is hoping Gonzalez (7-6, 4.24) can draw inspiration from Chris Tillman’s eight-inning gem from Saturday.
Gonzalez has split his last four starts with a 7.52 ERA. That includes allowing one run in six innings of a 9-1 road win over the Chicago White Sox on July 5.
The right-hander gave up six runs six days later, but four came on a pair of homers in the sixth. He failed to record an out in that inning, resulting in a 7-4 loss to Washington on July 11.
“I think the only thing I’m doing wrong is thinking too much right now,” Gonzalez said. “Really not focusing on letting it go and just being myself.
“Right now, mechanically, I’m just overthinking things right now. I think that’s what’s getting away from me.”
Facing the Tigers isn’t likely to solve his issues since he’s 0-2 with an 8.47 ERA in four games – three starts.
Manny Machado has a solo homer among his three hits in this series and is batting .397 with five homers and 12 RBIs in his last 15 road games. However, the All-Star third baseman is 2 for 11 against Verlander while Adam Jones is 6 for 33 with a homer after going 3 for 6 in the matchup last year.
Jones has six hits – two homers – over the last three games and is 12 for 29 in his past seven versus Detroit.
Jonathan Schoop is 4 for 8 with two doubles in this series, but he’s 0 for 6 against Verlander.