Justin Verlander has produced the longest road win streak by a Detroit Tigers pitcher in 44 years, but might have trouble adding to that if an unusual pattern against the Oakland Athletics continues Sunday.
Verlander will seek a 13th consecutive victory away from home and back-to-back wins in Oakland for the first time in his career as the Tigers conclude their four-game series with the A's.
Verlander (3-1, 2.63 ERA) is the first Tigers pitcher to win 12 straight road games since Denny McLain won 16 in a row during his 31-win campaign in 1968.
The reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner, though, hasn't been too consistent in Oakland. He's alternated between allowing four runs and one or fewer over his eight career starts there.
He gave up three hits and three walks over eight scoreless innings Sept. 18 while earning the final of his career-high 24 victories in 2011 and one of his 12 straight on the road.
During a visit to Oakland in April, he allowed four runs over six frames during a 6-2 defeat, one of his five losses last season.
In this outing, he'll face a team that has scored 17 runs while splitting the first two games of this series but was limited to three on Saturday. The Tigers (16-17), though, failed to score until the final inning of a 3-1 defeat.
They finished with five hits and a season-high 12 strikeouts during their 14th loss in 21 games.
"You can look better swinging the bats and still not get any hits. I've seen signs but not many," manager Jim Leyland said. "We're just not looking good swinging the bats. We're not putting anything together."
"There's a lot more talent here than I think there has been in the last few years," pitcher Brandon McCarthy said. "There are some guys who are coming through and filling in that are doing a really good job of it."
Verlander hasn't displayed the same consistently overpowering form he showed in 2011 but did enough to earn a third straight victory Tuesday in Seattle, allowing three runs over six innings. He gave up all of those runs in the third inning, and avoided getting ejected for arguing balls and strikes during that frame.
In this outing, Verlander might have to outduel 23-year-old Jarrod Parker (1-0, 1.80), who has yet to give up more than two runs over four career starts. The right-hander yielded two runs while pitching seven innings for the first time Tuesday but did not get a decision in a 7-3 win over Toronto.
Brandon Inge, released by the Tigers on April 26 after 11-plus seasons with the team, hit a grand slam in that game and had four homers and 16 RBIs over a five-game stretch before going 0 for 3 during Saturday's win.
The A's might need some more help from their infielder, who, like Verlander, is a Virginia native.
Oakland placed Cuban slugger Yoenis Cespedes on the 15-day disabled list Saturday because of a strained muscle in his left hand. It's also unclear if Jemile Weeks (sprained left ankle) and Kila Ka'aihue (strained hamstring) can return Sunday.
If the Tigers get to face a short-handed team, Andy Dirks will try to help his club take advantage by continuing his recent exploits at the plate. The outfielder is batting .519 (14 for 27) with three doubles, two homers and six RBIs over his last seven games.