Justin Verlander breaks nine-year hitless drought

Justin Verlander has won many Tigers games with his arm, but on Saturday night, he finally made a contribution with his bat.

Rick Osentoski/Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Justin Verlander’s nightmare at the plate is over.

Almost nine years after his first major-league game, Verlander finally got his first hit Saturday night in San Diego, lining a second-inning single up the middle off Ian Kennedy.

Verlander was 0-for-26 before the single, and only 10 players in major-league history had more at-bats without a hit. As with most other things, Verlander is proud of his hitting ability, and he has suffered as he has watched his pitcher teammates get hits, including Anibal Sanchez’s RBI double earlier on this road trip.

With a runner on first and two out, Verlander took a called strike on the outside corner, then hit Kennedy’s 91-mph fastball over the second-base bag. The Tigers dugout erupted into cheers, while Verlander sported a wide grin as the ball was taken out of play for his trophy case.

Verlander wasn’t finished, though.

He lined a single to right in his second at-bat, although he had to sprint at the end to beat Chris Denorfia’s throw from the outfield. Moments later, he scored his first career run, trotting home from third on Torii Hunter’s two-run single.

Verlander also held the Padres to two runs on eight hits over seven innings to earn his first victory of the season as the Tigers prevailed 6-2.