While Justin Verlander has fallen off this season after leading baseball in victories over past eight years, the Detroit Tigers hope his interleague dominance can continue unabated.
The right-hander looks to extend his unbeaten run against NL teams to 14 straight starts Tuesday night when Detroit hosts the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Verlander (7-7, 4.71 ERA) owns his second-highest ERA since his first full season in 2006. He had a particularly difficult time during a nightmarish seven-game stretch from May 14-June 16 when he was 2-5 with a 7.83 ERA. The 31-year-old, who led the majors with 137 wins from 2006-13, has looked better recently, compiling a 3.32 ERA in his last three outings.
He gave up two solo homers in the first inning Wednesday against Oakland, but didn’t surrender another run over his six innings in a 9-3 victory, his first win in six starts.
Verlander’s modest recent turnaround was too little, too little to earn a sixth straight All-Star selection.
"I didn’t have a good first half, and I know that," he said. "It’s going to be the first time I get that weekend off in a while. It will be nice to get that time where I don’t have to tax my arm. I’ve put in a lot of extra work this year, trying to find my mechanics, so the rest will be good."
Given his track record in interleague play, facing an NL club figures to send him to his final pre-break start on a good note. Verlander is 22-2 with a 2.56 ERA in 29 career interleague starts, including an 11-0 mark and 1.78 ERA in the last 13.
He’s never lost to an NL team in Detroit, going 13-0 with a 1.83 ERA in 14 starts, and owns a 1.23 ERA in winning his last six at Comerica Park.
Verlander, who has never faced Los Angeles, won his lone interleague outing this season, allowing two runs over seven innings in a 6-2 victory at San Diego on April 12.
The Tigers (48-37) could use a strong pitching performance after Rick Porcello was shelled for seven runs and 11 hits over 5 2-3 innings in Sunday’s 7-3 home loss to Tampa Bay. They totaled eight runs while dropping the last three in a four-game set.
Detroit had won 12 of 14 and were coming off a three-game sweep of major league-leading Oakland.
"It (stinks)," said Torii Hunter, who is 10 for 20 with seven RBIs over his last five games. "We’ve been playing so well."
The Dodgers (51-40) scored 27 runs while taking three of four in Colorado and were 20 for 46 with runners in scoring position. Matt Kemp was 4 for 5 in Sunday’s 8-2 victory after going 0 for 16 in his previous four contests.
"It was a good offensive series for us," Kemp said.
The Dodgers give the ball to Hyun-jin Ryu (9-4, 3.08), who is 6-1 with a 1.62 ERA in eight road games. The left-hander is 3-3 with a 4.66 ERA in eight home starts.
Ryu exited with a one-run lead Wednesday versus Cleveland after seven innings in which he gave up two runs and seven hits. However, he didn’t get a decision as the bullpen faltered in a 5-4 defeat.
Detroit’s J.D. Martinez hit his ninth homer in 20 games Sunday, a span in which he’s hitting .385 with 22 RBIs.
The Tigers have won 13 of their last 15 interleague home games, while the Dodgers have won nine of 10 on the road against AL teams.
These clubs split two games in Los Angeles on April 8 and 9.