Verlander, Detroit’s rookie right-hander, pitched seven impressive innings to best Byrd, and Magglio Ordonez hit a two-run homer to help the Tigers win their eighth straight game—3-1 over the Cleveland Indians on Saturday night.
It was the Tigers’ 15th victory in 16 games. Detroit owns the major league’s best record at 35-14 and is just eight wins shy of its total from the 2003 season when the Tigers lost an AL-record 119 games.
Verlander (7-3) won his fourth consecutive decision by allowing just one and seven hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out five.
“One of the best arms on a starting pitcher that I’ve seen … ever,” said Byrd, who made his major league debut in 1995. “I’ve been around a long time. You don’t see too many starters throwing 100 miles per hour.”
But Verlander did have his 20-inning scoreless streak halted by Grady Sizemore’s home run in the fourth inning.
“I was aware of it, but it didn’t matter to me,” Verlander said. “All I wanted to is win the game. I don’t care if I give up nine and we score 10, the win is most important.”
Tigers left fielder Craig Monroe robbed Sizemore of a second home run when he jumped above the fence to catch Sizemore’s drive with none out in the eighth and a runner on second.
Byrd (4-3) took the loss, giving up two unearned runs and five hits in six innings. He didn’t allow a walk and struck out five.
“Byrdie threw the ball good,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said. “He was consistent the whole game. One pitch and he (Ordonez) hit it out.”
The Tigers got all the runs they needed in the first on Ordonez’s two-out, two-run homer. Carlos Guillen, who reached on an error by first baseman Ben Broussard, scored ahead of Ordonez’s 12th home run.
“Byrd has had my number for all my career,” Ordonez said. “Tonight, I got him.”
Ordonez came into the game 3-for-24 against Byrd.
“It wasn’t down the middle by any means,” said Byrd, who threw Ordonez a high fastball. “Ordonez made an adjustment and hit it out of the park.”
Sizemore drove Verlander’s 1-0 pitch into the right-field stands to lead off the fourth for his ninth home run of the season.
Verlander faced his toughest jam in the sixth. Aaron Boone led off with a double and, one out later, Verlander hit Casey Blake. But he then struck out Jhonny Peralta and Travis Hafner to end the inning.
“The times I got in trouble, I elevated the ball,” Verlander said. “When I got it down, everything was OK.”
The Tigers made it 3-1 in the eighth with an RBI single by Placido Polanco.
Right-handed reliever Ramon Colon will take left-hander Mike Maroth’s spot in Detroit’s starting rotation. Maroth is on the 15-day DL because of irritation in his left elbow. Colon will start Tuesday. … Sizemore stretched his hitting streak to eight games (11-for-35).