Verlander looks to extend the punchless Braves’ scoreless streak on Saturday when the AL Central-leading Tigers continue their three-game series at Turner Field.
Detroit (43-29) won Friday’s opener 5-0, sending Atlanta (38-36) to its third consecutive shutout loss. The Braves, who have not scored in 28 innings, have not suffered three consecutive shutouts since 1988. They haven’t been shut out in four straight games since May 8-12, 1985.
“I thought we hit the heck out of the ball,” said manager Bobby Cox, whose team didn’t get a runner into scoring position Friday. “Nothing happened.”
Detroit starter Kenny Rogers made his first start of the season after a blood clot was removed from his pitching shoulder in the spring and allowed only two hits in six innings.
“Not to beat a dead horse, but we’ve got to score,” said Atlanta starter John Smoltz, who took the loss. “We know that. We’ve just got to score. And the pitchers have to be there when we do.”
Things won’t get any easier for the Braves on Saturday when they face Verlander (8-2, 2.90 ERA), who has won all six of his career interleague starts while posting a 2.11 ERA. In three starts against the NL this season, he owns a 1.96 ERA.
Verlander, who has never faced the Braves, threw a no-hitter against Milwaukee on June 12 and followed it up with a 7-4 win at Philadelphia on Sunday in which he allowed three runs in six innings. He has won his last three starts and is 7-1 over his last nine.
“I didn’t treat it differently than any other start,” he said.
The Tigers have won their last five games and own a one-game lead over second-place Cleveland in the AL Central. They have outscored their opponents 44-17 during their second-longest winning streak of the season, behind an eight-game run April 29-May 8.
Right fielder Magglio Ordonez, who leads the majors with a .383 batting average, left Friday’s game in the eighth inning after being hit on the left hand with a pitch. However, X-rays were negative and he said he expects to be back in the lineup Saturday.
Atlanta third baseman Chipper Jones did not play because of a strained abductor muscle. Jones, who has played only 50 of 74 games this season because of injury, tried to play with his latest ailment on Wednesday against Boston but had to leave after the fifth inning.
“I’m day to day,” he said Friday. “I could be in there tomorrow. I don’t expect to be out past tomorrow.”
Left-handed reliever Wilfredo Ledezma, acquired from Detroit on Wednesday, made his Atlanta debut against his former team and struck out the side in the ninth.
The Braves will hand the ball to starter Kyle Davies (3-6, 5.65) on Saturday. He lost his third straight outing on Sunday, allowing five runs - three earned - in 5 1-3 innings of a 5-2 defeat in Cleveland.
Davies has allowed five runs in each of his outings during his losing streak and a total of 29 in 23 innings in his last five defeats. He has never faced the Tigers, but is 2-3 with a 7.39 ERA in six career interleague starts.