video thumbnail

STL@DET: Verlander tosses seven strong frames

One can argue that Justin Verlander owns the National League. In 24 Interleague starts, the reigning American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner has an 18-2 record and a 2.67 ERA, and has held opponents to a .212 batting average.

And in four starts against the NL this season, the right-hander has yet to be beaten. In the first of those outings -- against the Pirates at Comerica Park -- he nearly tossed his third no-hitter, stifling Pittsburgh for 8 1/3 innings before Josh Harrison hit a single up the middle of the diamond just past the outstretched glove of shortstop Jhonny Peralta.

Tigers manager Jim Leyland was amazed.

"I've never seen anything like that," Leyland said after the game. "That's probably the best game I've ever seen pitched. I've seen a lot of games -- over 3,000. I don't know how you explain that. That's freaky. ... Anybody who was here ... probably saw one of the best games ever pitched in baseball."

Verlander gets another shot against Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon, when the Tigers and Pirates finish a three-game set at PNC Park. The Bucs took the first two games, and now Verlander faces right-hander Kevin Correia hoping to avert a sweep.

Correia last faced Detroit during the series in May. He pitched well enough, yielding three earned runs in six innings, but he was on the wrong end of a 15-strikeout performance by Max Scherzer. His competition certainly doesn't get easier on Sunday.

The 31-year-old Correia will look to carry the momentum built off his most recent start, against Minnesota. He went 5 1/3 innings, holding the Twins to four hits and no runs while securing his first home win of the year.

"I feel like I've been pitching a lot better at home. I knew the wins would come," Correia said after that game. "I continue to do weird things here. All three of my wins have been over American League teams."

Correia hopes to grab win No. 4 against an AL opponent as Pittsburgh fights to stay in contention for the NL Central lead.

Tigers: Verlander remains 0-for-career
On the mound the ace excels at pretty much everything he tries. At the plate it's a different story. Verlander is hitless in his career (0-for-22), and Sunday's game will be his last chance this season to record his first one.

"Before, it was, 'Oh boy, hit, hit, hit,'" said Verlander, who has always voiced his displeasure with himself at the plate but is taking a more relaxed approach this season. "Now it's just kind of ... I work on it, I went out there and got my practice and actually made some adjustments and felt like I've got a better swing than I had before, but I'm not worried about it."

The 29-year-old carries a streak of 57 games in which he went at least six innings. It is the longest active streak in the Majors, and no one else is really close. Cliff Lee is second, with 22.

• Casey McGehee is the only current Pirate with a home run off Verlander. He is 2-for-7 against the righty in his career.

Pirates: McCutchen mashing in June
Andrew McCutchen finished Saturday's game batting .377 average for the month, with 20 RBIs and nine homers. Leyland had good things to say about the center fielder prior to the game.

"I think he's one of the best two-way players in the game," Leyland said. "He can beat you with his legs, he can beat you with power, he can beat you with a base hit. He can beat you with a great catch in center field. He's one of those two-way players that I talk about all the time."

• The Bucs are one game behind the Reds for the lead in the NL Central.

Worth noting
Both the Pirates and Tigers have been on a roll. The Pirates have won five of their past seven contests and the Tigers had won four straight series before dropping Saturday's game, and the set, to the Bucs.

MLB.com Comments