DETROIT (AP) — Justin Verlander was on the mound, giving the Detroit Tigers a good shot at keeping the distinction of being baseball’s only undefeated team.
Chris Tillman, though, outpitched Verlander while working into the ninth inning to help the Baltimore Orioles beat Detroit 3-1 Sunday to avoid getting swept.
Verlander (0-1) gave up two runs on five hits and two walks over eight innings. He struck out three, moving past Tommy Bridges and into fourth place on the franchise’s all-time list with 1,674 in his career, but isn’t pleased with that facet of his game after fanning just two in his first start.
“You get a feel for strikeouts and my feel for those isn’t there yet,” Verlander said. “I’m not executing as well as I should or maybe over-trying a little bit with two strikes and hanging stuff.”
Verlander trails Mickey Lolich (2,679), Jack Morris (1,980) and Hal Newhouser (1,770) in the franchise’s record books.
Before the game, Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said Verlander has become better because he’s more of a pitcher and less of a hard-throwing righty that he used to be.
Tillman (1-0) gave up five hits, including Torii Hunter’s solo homer in the fourth, in a career-high matching 8 1-3 innings.
“Some guys see Verlander in the opposite slot and they shy away,” Showalter said. “Tillman takes that as a challenge.”
Tommy Hunter entered with one out in the ninth and Victor Martinez on second base and retired the last two batters for his second save.
Baltimore won for the first time since its opener and handed Detroit its first loss.
“To be 4-1 right now is pretty cool,” Torii Hunter said. “It’s all about getting into May and June to know what kind of team you really have. I don’t get caught up too much in the beginning.”
The Tigers scored 17 runs and had 30 hits in the previous two wins against Baltimore, but were kept quiet at the plate in the series finale.
Miguel Cabrera, who entered the game hitting a baseball-best .398 against Baltimore in his career, went 1 for 4 with a sharply hit single in the sixth.
“Bats cooled a little bit, but I think that had more to do with Tillman than anything else,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said after his first loss.
Baseball’s replay system was temporarily unavailable early in the game. Both managers were informed of the technical difficulty during the first inning and it was repaired after a half-inning, according to Ausmus.
Baltimore’s Adam Jones drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth with a sacrifice fly after Nick Markakis tripled. The Orioles went ahead 3-1 in the ninth after Al Alburquerque replaced Verlander and allowed Matt Wieters to hit his first homer of the season.
Tillman had more strikeouts (five) than the Tigers had hits (four) against him through eight innings, keeping a crowd of 34,261 quiet on a partly cloudy afternoon in the 50s.
After Tillman got Cabrera to ground out for the first out in the ninth, he gave up a double to Martinez that brought the fans to their feet. Hunter then struck out Austin Jackson for the second out of the inning and got Tyler Collins to bounce out for the last one.
Torii Hunter homered in a third straight game – for the first time since 2006 – to make it 1-0 Tigers.
Baltimore tied it at 1 in the sixth inning when Nelson Cruz doubled home Jones, who also hit a double off Verlander.
“You’ve got to be pretty pleased with the outing,” Ausmus said.
NOTES: The Tigers planned to fly after the game to California, where they will play the Los Angeles Dodgers on Tuesday night. …. Ausmus was the first to begin his career with four straight win since Clint Hurdle of Colorado and Jerry Royster of Milwaukee both did it in 2002.