Verlander, Upton lead Tigers to fifth straight victory
DETROIT (AP) -- The way Justin Verlander has pitched since July, he rarely needs much offensive support from his teammates.
On Friday night, the Detroit Tigers didn't score until the sixth inning, but four late runs were more than enough for Verlander to beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-2.
He allowed a first-inning homer to Albert Pujols, then after holding the Angels hitless from the second into the eighth, he gave up a second run before Francisco Rodriguez got the final four outs.
The Tigers have won five straight to move back into contention in both the AL Central and wild-card races.
Verlander (14-7) allowed four hits and a walk while striking out eight in his ninth straight quality start. Since July 2, he is 7-1 with a 2.00 ERA while giving up 48 hits in 76 1/3 innings.
"This is what you work for," he said. "You work so hard in the offseason so that you can be strong at the end of the year and continue to give your team a chance to win when it really counts."
Mike Trout went 0 for 3 against Verlander, and is 1 for 15 against the Tigers ace in his career.
"That was obviously a tough night," Trout said. "He was throwing near 100 (mph), he was working the corners, and he was keeping us off balance. That doesn't give you many chances."
Justin Upton hit a tie-breaking two-run homer in the sixth -- his fourth in five games.
Upton was hitting .226 when Tigers manager Brad Ausmus held him out of the starting lineup for three days last week. Since returning on Saturday, he's batting .417 with seven extra-base hits and 11 RBIs in six games.
"He's been great since he came back off that three-day hiatus," Ausmus said. "It was a mental reset, and it gave him a chance to work on some things. His history shows he's capable of going on sustained tears like this, and I hope he keeps it going for at least the next five weeks."
Ricky Nolasco (4-12) held the Tigers scoreless for the first five innings, but ended up allowing four runs, nine hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings.
"I was putting up zeros and trying to give us a chance, but that's a stacked lineup," Nolasco said. "I made the big pitches I needed until the sixth."
Pujols gave the Angels a 1-0 lead in the first, hitting his 585th career homer. He came into the game hitting .360 against the Tigers, the best average in baseball since 2001. It was Pujols' first regular-season homer off Verlander, though he did hit one off the Tigers ace in the 2006 World Series.
Detroit broke through in the sixth, tying the game on consecutive doubles by Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez, and Upton hit the next pitch into the stands in left field to give the Tigers a 3-1 lead.
"I hung two straight sliders, and it cost us the game," Nolasco said. "J.D. hit the first one for a double and the next one was a home run."
Cameron Maybin added a solo homer in the seventh. Verlander didn't allow a hit after the first inning until Kaleb Cowart's one-out single in the eighth. Cowart, though, scored on Kole Calhoun's two-out double.
That brought in Rodriguez, and he walked Trout to put the tying run on base. Pujols hit an 0-1 pitch deep down the line in left, but it hooked foul. Rodriguez uncorked a wild pitch to move the runners to second and third.
Pujols, though, grounded out on the next pitch to end the threat.
"You knew that was going to be a battle with Frankie and Albert out there," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "Albert almost got him, but he just couldn't wrap it around the pole, and then Frankie made a great pitch. That's what he's going to do."
Angels: INF Jefry Marte returned to the Angels after missing the series in Toronto with tonsillitis. ... Reliever Cam Bedrosian is scheduled to see a vascular specialist early next week to determine if he needs season-ending surgery to remove a blood clot in his arm.
Tigers: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (neck) started for Triple-A Toledo in the first of what is expected to be three rehab starts. Zimmermann allowed two hits in 3 2/3 shutout innings, throwing 39 pitches.
Visiting relievers aren't usually included in pre-game ceremonies, but the Tigers made an exception for Angels reliever A.J. Achter. Friday was Michigan State University Night at Comerica Park, and Achter is the only active major leaguer who played for the Spartans.
GOLD MEDALIST COMES HOME
Swimmer Allison Schmitt, who grew up about 30 miles west of Comerica Park, threw out the first pitch. Earlier this month, she won gold and silver in the Rio Olympics, giving her four career gold medals and eight total medals.
The teams continue their three-game series Saturday night, with Tigers rookie Michael Fulmer (10-4, 2.58) facing Brett Oberholtzer (3-2, 5.77). Oberholtzer is replacing Jhoulys Chacin in the rotation, with Chacin moving to the bullpen.