Tigers' Verlander finally gets 6th win
Justin Verlander was running in the outfield Thursday when he heard a round of cheers from the sizeable contingent of Detroit Tigers fans that packed Wrigley Field for the series finale against the Chicago Cubs.
''I got chills,'' Verlander said.
He returned the favor during an important 5-3 victory, pitching eight solid innings and helping himself with a pair of sacrifices as Detroit capped an encouraging 4-2 interleague road trip through Cincinnati and Chicago.
While Verlander shut down the Cubs in another impressive performance, Austin Jackson hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh and a two-run homer in the ninth to help the Tigers to their fourth victory in five games.
''We've got to start winning two out of three,'' manager Jim Leyland said. ''That's how you crawl back into the thing.''
The combination of Verlander and a picturesque day in Chicago led to a season-high crowd of 42,292 that ran the total for the series to 124,782, setting a Wrigley Field record for a midweek three-game set. Tigers fans made up a good amount of that total, and they cheered everything Verlander did in the finale.
''It's a lot more fun when you hear all the fans chanting `Let's go Tigers' on the road,'' Jackson said.
The Cubs scored two runs in the second on Darwin Barney's double and Luis Valbuena's groundout, but that was it against the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner.
Verlander, who also won the MVP award for his dominant 2011 season, retired 10 in a row and 16 of 17 batters following Barney's one-out hit in the second. Pitcher Travis Wood was the only one to reach during that string, but he was cut down trying to stretch his two-out liner in the fifth into a double.
''After the second I started getting my rhythm a little bit,'' Verlander said. ''I started throwing my breaking ball for strikes. Keeping guys off balance and just making better pitches.''
Verlander (6-4) yielded five hits, struck out eight and walked none in his first victory since he flirted with a no-hitter while allowing just one hit in a 6-0 victory against Pittsburgh on May 18. The ace right-hander was 0-3 with a 4.10 ERA in his previous four starts.
''He kind of stays on you the whole time,'' Cubs center fielder Tony Campana said. ''He mixes his pitches so well and that's why he's so good.''
Campana doubled and scored in the ninth before Jose Valverde finished for his 13th save in 16 chances.
Jackson also hit a leadoff double in the first and scored on Prince Fielder's double. He went 3 for 4 and is batting .359 (23 for 64) in his last 17 games.
Wood (0-3) allowed three runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings. The left-hander struck out three, walked two and hit two batters.
''It was another battle for me out there today,'' he said. ''I found a lot of trouble but I was able to keep it close and pitch out of a lot of jams. A guy like Verlander is a great pitcher even when he doesn't have his `A' game. We battled but just came up short.''
Verlander went 0 for 1 to leave him hitless in 22 career at-bats, but that didn't diminish his day at the plate. He moved Ryan Raburn to second with a perfect sacrifice in the seventh and Jackson followed with a base hit to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead.
NOTES: Raburn went 2 for 3 after he was recalled from Triple-A Toledo before the game when the Tigers placed LHP Drew Smyly (blister) on the 15-day disabled list. ... Valbuena was promoted from Triple-A Iowa earlier in the day, and went 0 for 3. The Cubs also put 3B Ian Stewart (sore left wrist) on the DL, activated C Welington Castillo from the injured list and designated C Koyie Hill for assignment. ... Detroit RHP Doug Fister will come off the DL to start Saturday's home game against Colorado. He had been sidelined with a left side strain. The Tigers will make a corresponding roster move before the game. ... Michigan State men's basketball coach Tom Izzo was on the field before the game. ... The Cubs host the Boston Red Sox for a three-game series beginning on Friday afternoon. RHP Ryan Dempster (2-3, 2.31 ERA) faces Red Sox RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (0-1, 7.20 ERA) in the opener. ... The Tigers return home to open a three-game set against Colorado on Friday night. LHP Casey Crosby (1-1, 9.35 ERA) and Rockies LHP Jeff Francis (0-1, 21.60 ERA) are scheduled to face off in the first game.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap