DETROIT (TNS) — Five batters into Tuesday’s game, it was hard to envision this scene: Justin Verlander punching his glove after an inning-ending double play, walking off the mound to a standing ovation with the lead after seven strong innings.
But there he was, a survivor of early struggles, the maiden voyage of a must-win home stand straightened out.
By the time the Royals’ sixth batter stepped to the plate in the first inning, Verlander and the Tigers were down by three runs. He allowed the first five batters to reach. But the Tigers soon chipped away, Verlander even sooner got back on track, keeping his team in the game as they came back to win, 5-3.
In the first, he would strand a runner on third base. He would strand another in the fourth inning and allowed only four singles in the final six innings after Salvador Perez’s two-run single in the first inning.
The Tigers got on the board with a J.D. Martinez solo home run in the second inning and took the lead for good on a Miguel Cabrera three-run home run in the third inning.
Martinez’s home run was his 13th of the season, to left field off Royals left-hander Matt Strahm. Cabrera’s was his ninth of the season, to right field. It was his first home run of the season against a left-handed pitcher.
Verlander had rediscovered the success he had in the first five innings of his last start against the Mariners, when a perfect game bid went awry in the sixth. He pounded the strike zone and appeared to focus more on quick outs in order to pitch deep into the game.
His final line was seven innings, nine hits, three earned runs, one walk and six strikeouts.
Ian Kinsler added an RBI single in fourth inning. The score didn’t change.
Perez, a longtime nemesis of Verlander’s, gave a fastball a ride to deep center field with two outs in the fifth inning, but Mikie Mahtook made a fantastic catch, grabbing Perez’s drive with the heel of his glove while running into the wall.
He hung on and received a hearty hug from Verlander upon arriving at the Tigers’ dugout. Mahtook, hitting second, recorded two hits.
Verlander gave way to Daniel Stumpf in the top of the eighth inning. Stumpf allowed a lefty-on-lefty single to Eric Hosmer and was relieved by Bruce Rondon, who allowed a single but struck out two batters to strand two runners.
Justin Wilson picked up his seventh save in eight tries in the ninth inning.
With the win, the Tigers improve to 34-42.