Verlander looks to remain unbeaten versus the National League as he takes the mound for the resurgent Tigers in the decisive game of a three-game series with the San Diego Padres on Sunday.
Verlander (3-9, 4.55 ERA) was terrible in his first six starts, going 1-6 with a 6.43 ERA. But the last seven starts have been much more encouraging for the right-hander, who is 2-3 with a 2.63 ERA in that span.
An interleague contest could mean another strong outing for Verlander.
He won each of his first seven games against NL opponents before Monday night, when he did not receive a decision against San Francisco. He gave up three runs - two earned - and five hits while striking out seven in six innings as the Tigers (35-39) lost 8-6 to the Giants.
This will be his first appearance against San Diego (32-44), which has struggled at the plate. The Padres have scored just 286 runs on the season. Only Washington (279) has crossed the plate fewer times.
San Diego, though, has managed to score a total of 11 runs in its last two games after being held to one or none in two of its previous three contests.
The Padres went 3-for-7 with runners in scoring position Saturday night, but lost 7-5 to the Tigers in this series’ middle game.
San Diego was without right fielder Brian Giles (sore right hamstring) and third baseman Kevin Kouzmanoff (back). Neither starter is expected back until Tuesday, leaving the Padres short-handed as they try to solve Verlander.
San Diego will counter with Randy Wolf (5-5, 4.16), who is coming off one of his worst starts of the season, allowing seven runs - five earned - and six hits in four innings as San Diego lost 8-0 at Yankee Stadium on Tuesday night. He went 3-0 with a 1.91 ERA in his previous five starts.
Wolf has lost each of his two interleague starts this season - both on the road - posting a 6.97 ERA. But he has been outstanding at home, going 4-1 with a 2.45 ERA in seven outings.
The veteran left-hander has never faced the Tigers, who have hit 16 home runs in their last 10 games.
Marcus Thames’ two-run, pinch-hit homer in the seventh inning gave Detroit a victory Saturday. He has hit eight home runs in his last 10 games, batting .290 (9-for-31) with 13 RBIs during that stretch.
Thames “has just been on a roll,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “It’s unbelievable, really. It’s hard to explain.”
Detroit is 11-1 this season when Thames homers, and 50-19 since 2004.
Thames helped the Tigers, trying to catch up in the AL Central, win for the ninth time in their last 11 games. Detroit is six games behind the first-place Chicago White Sox.