SEATTLE -- What began as a perfect start for Justin Verlander turned into a perfect finish instead for the Mariners as Seattle rallied for a 7-5 victory Wednesday night at Safeco Field.
Verlander didn't allow a baserunner until one out in the sixth, but things quickly unraveled from there as Nelson Cruz and Robinson Cano ripped two-run doubles and Mitch Haniger added a solo homer to help Seattle score seven runs in the sixth and seventh.
"Sixth and seventh inning, they just hit us," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "And that was the ballgame."
Cruz capped the go-ahead four-run push in the seventh with a run-scoring single as he totaled three RBIs to increase his American League-leading total to 58 in a 2-for-4 night. Ben Gamel also went 2-for-4 to raise his batting average to .354.
Verlander wound up allowing four hits and three runs with one walk and 11 strikeouts in a 110-pitch outing that left his record at 4-4 with a 4.52 ERA. Reliever Shane Greene took the loss after allowing all four runs in the seventh.
Mariners manager Scott Servais said Verlander was "as good as any starter we've seen this year," and his club was thrilled to beat the veteran ace at his best.
"It's huge," said Cruz. "He's always there competing. It was nice to have our whole lineup together today and it was nice to see everybody come up big, especially late in the game. It was a great victory."
Mariners lefty James Paxton gave up nine hits and four runs (three earned) with eight strikeouts in 5 1/3 innings, but wound up with a no-decision after Seattle overcame his 4-0 deficit. Paxton is 5-2 with a 3.39 ERA on the season, but just 2-2 with a 6.56 ERA in five starts since returning from the disabled list.
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The win was the fourth in a row for the Mariners, who pulled even at .500 for the fourth time this season at 37-37, though they've yet to get over that hump. Despite solo homers by James McCann and Ian Kinsler, the Tigers lost their season-high fifth straight to fall to 32-39.
"It's not an easy pill," Verlander said. "You definitely want to come away with a win, especially if you feel like you've got the best stuff you've had all year. Just kind of one of those days. These guys are rolling. We're not. Once you get that ball going downhill, it's kind of hard to stop it."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Costly throw: Paxton was only down 2-0 going into the sixth. But after a leadoff single by Jose Cabrera, J.D. Martinez blooped a base hit into center. Cabrera held up between first and second as Jarrod Dyson, one of the better defensive outfielders in the game, played the ball on a hop and appeared to have a chance to force Cabrera at second with an accurate throw. But Dyson sailed the ball over shortstop Jean Segura's head and the runners moved to second and third as it rolled to the Tigers dugout. Justin Upton then followed with a two-run single and Paxton's day was done two batters later with the 4-0 deficit, though one of those runs was unearned. More >
"I tried to rush the throw and it just two-seamed on me," Dyson said. "I think it hit the lip of the grass and kicked over to the dugout. I'm still upset by that because it allowed them to score two more. Paxton kept us in the ballgame and if I eliminate that mistake, they might just have had two on the board."
Perfect bunt at perfect time: Verlander had sailed through 5 1/3 innings and was looking extremely sharp when Dyson dropped down a well-placed bunt that pulled first baseman Cabrera toward second and left Verlander in a no-chance race to beat the speedy Mariners center fielder to the bag at first. Dyson's time of 3.7 seconds to first -- per Statcast™ -- wasn't his fastest of the year, but was plenty fast enough to give him the infield single. It was Dyson's fifth-fastest home-to-first clocking on a hit this season and all five of those are among the top 25 in MLB this year. Dyson's quickest time of 3.50 earlier this year is tied with Twins speedster Byron Buxton for No. 1 on the list. That bunt kick-started Seattle's three-run sixth as Verlander proceeded to give up a walk, two singles and Cruz's two-run double.
"Just trying to get something going," said Dyson. "The guy had a perfect game going on us. I'm not just going to just keep going up there hacking at him. In our matchup in the past, he always wins the battle, so I had to just try to play my game and I was able to get down a good bunt."
"Even though we didn't have a hit going into the sixth, I liked the quality of our at-bats and high pitch counts. Just five- and six-pitch at-bats, one guy after another, and you're hoping we can get him off his spot. It's kind of like a guy shooting 10 free throws in a row, you've got to get him off his spot. Dyson made a great bunt and that gave our dugout a little energy and the at-bats continued and we got a few pitches to hit." -- Servais on how the game changed after Seattle finally forced Verlander to pitch from the stretch
"We're playing like crap, overall. We're losing games. There's not much to say. We've got to snap out of it somehow. I don't know if it's the chicken or the egg, but something's got to happen to turn the tide and we've got to do it pretty quick." -- Ausmus on the Tigers' struggles
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Cano's go-ahead two-run hit in the seventh was his 491st career double, tying for him for 70th on MLB's all-time list with Hall of Famer Heinie Manush.
Verlander's 11 strikeouts marked the 39th double-digit game in his career, tying him with J.R. Richard for 28th on MLB's all-time list. More >
Tigers: Daniel Norris (4-4, 4.42) takes the mound looking for his third straight win as this series wraps up Thursday with a 10:10 p.m. ET contest at Safeco Field. Norris took a hard-luck loss to the M's at Comerica Park in April.
Mariners: Right-hander Andrew Moore makes his MLB debut in Thursday's 7:10 p.m. PT game at Safeco Field, as he takes over the rotation spot previously held by veteran Yovani Gallardo. Moore was last year's Mariners Minor League Pitcher of the Year and went 4-3, 2.72 ERA in 14 games between Triple-A Tacoma and Double-A Arkansas this season.
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