BALTIMORE -- Justin Upton's grand slam not only handed the Tigers a 5-2 win over the Orioles Friday night and helped Justin Verlander to his seventh win of the season, but also took Verlander back to his incredible 24-5 season.Flash back to 2011.On September 7, Verlander had just finished the
BALTIMORE -- Justin Upton's grand slam not only handed the Tigers a 5-2 win over the Orioles Friday night and helped Justin Verlander to his seventh win of the season, but also took Verlander back to his incredible 24-5 season.
Flash back to 2011.
On September 7, Verlander had just finished the sixth inning as the Tigers trailed the Indians, 4-2. Victor Martinez came up in the top of the seventh with the bases loaded and gave the Tigers a two-run lead on a grand slam to give Verlander his 22nd win of the season.
"The first person I saw after the inning was over [Friday] was Victor. He remembered it as well," Verlander said. "I think we were down one or two runs and Victor came up and hit a grand slam with two outs, just to cap off a Cinderella year. This kind of reminded me of that. Just kind of happens in a hurry; you never know. But that's why pitching deeper into the game can get you so many wins. I still think there's a lot of value in wins."
The righty picked up his seventh win of the season tossing seven innings and striking out 10, the third time he struck out at least 10. After allowing just two runs, Verlander recorded his fourth consecutive quality start.
"He did an excellent job. It was good that he was able to get the win after pitching so well," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "He actually mixed his breaking balls well. He didn't just go with the slider or the curveball. The fastball always a key for him. He can pitch up with it, and certainly down on both sides. I thought he used the curveball well at times."
Friday night was just the sixth time in Verlander's career that he struck out at least 10 batters while not issuing a walk and he credits his improved slider for his efficiency.
"I've been kind of tinkering around with my slider a little bit," Verlander said. "I had the new one early, which was kind of more cutter-ish again, so I went back to a different grip and from the third inning on, I felt like it was a great pitch for me."
Wins haven't come as easily to Verlander this year as they have in the past. With Friday's win, he has won consecutive starts for the first time since May 9 and, despite having five quality starts in his last six outings, the righty has only two wins to show for them.
"You can fall on hard luck. It's happened," Verlander said. "But, still you give yourself a good chance if you pitch well and pitch deep to win ballgames. This is a perfect example why. If I came out after six, I don't get the win."
Mandy Bell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Baltimore.