DETROIT – Justin Verlander is struggling so much he’s taking consolation in pitching long enough to give the bullpen a rest.
Hisashi Iwakuma extended his scoreless innings streak on the road to 25 and Justin Smoak homered off Verlander to help the Seattle Mariners beat the Detroit Tigers 8-0 on Wednesday night.
Verlander (13-12) gave up three runs, four hits, walked three and struck out six over seven innings.
You never want to lose, but you can take away a little bit of solace, going seven and not having to wear out your bullpen, he said.
The AL Central-leading Tigers had won three straight and six of seven to close in on their third straight title, but they have not eliminated the Cleveland Indians from contention in the division.
Verlander, the 2011 MVP and Cy Young Award winner, earned a victory in his previous start to end a six-game winless streak. He has won consecutive games only once – July 31 and Aug. 6 – since winning four straight starts in late May and early June.
The stuff has been getting better almost every time out, Verlander said. How I’m going to be in the postseason, we’ll see. You never want to say anything clinched until it is.
In the fourth inning, Iwakuma got out of a bases-loaded jam for the second time in the game at Detroit.
We had a shot, Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. But that’s what good pitchers do, they don’t let you capitalize. That’s why he’s one of the best.
Iwakuma (13-6) matched his career high going eight innings, giving up just four hits and one unintentional walk. His 25-inning scoreless streak on the road matches a franchise record.
Verlander gave up walks to leadoff hitters in the first two innings, and the second time it led to him giving up two runs.
Smoak got a free pass in the second and scored on Michael Saunders’ double deep into the left-center gap. Nick Franklin followed with an RBI single to give Seattle a 2-0 lead.
The walks hurt me, Verlander said. It seemed like every inning, especially the first four, I was very erratic with the first batter of the inning.
Verlander seemed to finally find a groove in the fourth inning when he retired the side in order, but Smoak’s solo shot gave Seattle a 3-0 lead in the sixth.
Verlander struck out two in the seventh, ending his 124-pitch outing.