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Hunter drives in three as Tigers trounce Nationals 11-1

The SportsXchange

DETROIT -- Torii Hunter had no intention of stopping as he rounded second base during his last at-bat on Wednesday.

The 38-year-old Hunter needed a triple for his first career cycle but there were two roadblocks: Alex Avila and his conscience. Avila was held at third by Detroit Tigers base coach Tom Brookens and even with his team leading by 10 runs, Hunter didn‘t want to look selfish.

"I told the guys in the dugout that if I hit a ball in the outfield, I'm running no matter what," Hunter said after the Tigers' 11-1 victory over Washington at Comerica Park. "I saw Alex slowing down at third and I was like, ‘Forget it, I'm going to keep going.' I kept running and then unselfish part of me stopped and tried to go back. I should have just kept running until Avila just took it on the chin."

Hunter, who drove in three runs, got thrown out on the play and had to settle for a four-hit game. That was the only thing that went wrong for Detroit, which recorded two five-run innings en route to its fifth straight win.

Hunter got his first three hits against Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez (7-4), who gave up 10 runs in 3 1/3 innings while suffering his first loss since May 27 against Baltimore. It was the second worst performance of Gonzalez's career. He surrendered 11 earned runs in 2 2/3 innings to Minnesota on July 20, 2009.

"Just lucky," Hunter said of his success against Gonzalez. "I might need to go to the casino and bet on black. He left some balls out over the plate for me and I was able to capitalize on it."

The Tigers rocked Gonzalez without the major league's leading hitter. Miguel Cabrera, who is batting .359, missed the game with an abdominal strain suffered during the Tigers' 5-1 victory over Washington on Tuesday. The injury is related to the sore left hip flexor that sidelined the third baseman for four games last week.

Justin Verlander (11-8) pitched six innings, allowing one run and four hits. He struck out six but also tied his season high with five walks. Verlander, who allowed 12 earned runs while losing his previous two starts, said his fastball was erratic.

"I don't think there's any pitcher in baseball that's worked as hard as I have to get things right," he said. "When you're doing that, you're tinkering a lot and messing with stuff, so that might throw you off here and there. I know in my gut I've done everything to get things on the right path and slowly but surely, I'm working in the right direction."

Avila homered for the second consecutive game for Detroit. Gonzalez gave up five runs in the second, including Avila's two-run blast, and was charged with five more in the fourth. He had not given up more than three runs in his previous 10 outings.

"If you're 2-0 (in the count), you're going to get hit," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "I don't care what you're throwing, anything you can throw for a strike, get ahead. That was his problem. I don't think he had a feel for his curveball and against these guys, it's going to kill you. It got ugly quick."

Washington catcher Kurt Suzuki also felt Gonzalez's spotty curveball made him vulnerable.

"It's pretty tough when you really aren't throwing breaking balls for strikes and you have to throw the heater," he said. "You eliminate any pitches and it becomes tough. Gio did make some good pitches that got hit and their hitting was contagious today."

NOTES: Shortstop Jose Iglesias, acquired from Boston by Detroit late Tuesday in a three-team deal, will be added to the active roster before the Tigers' weekend series against the Chicago White Sox. Iglesias, 23, batted .330 with one homer and 19 RBI in 63 games with the Red Sox this season and is considered a defensive standout. ... Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty was released from a Washington, D.C., hospital on Wednesday and will rejoin the club next week after the team's weekend series in Milwaukee, according to Johnson. McCatty, 59, was taken to a hospital before the Nats' home game against the New York Mets on Sunday because of an irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure. ... Nationals reliever Ross Ohlendorf left the game in the fourth after facing three batters because of forearm stiffness.

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