Justin Verlander has endured a trying 2014, and a recent scandal didn't make matters any easier for him.
However, the former MVP insists he has one focus - to help the Detroit Tigers to a fourth straight postseason appearance.
He'll try to do exactly that Wednesday night as he looks to lead Detroit to a sixth consecutive road win over the Cleveland Indians for the first time in 26 years.
Verlander (12-11, 4.68 ERA) has compiled the second-worst ERA of his career and his 6.9 strikeouts per nine innings marks his worst rate since averaging 6.0 in 2006. A 5.5 run-support average still has him a win shy of matching last year's total, though he posted a 3.46 ERA in 2013.
He's also been hampered by shoulder soreness - likely not helping his drought without a complete game, which has extended to 72 starts dating back to 2012. His 17 complete games from 2009-12 were the fourth-most in baseball over that span.
Adversity of a different sort arose Sunday, however, when nude photos of Verlander and his girlfriend Kate Upton - among many other celebrities - were allegedly hacked and posted online Sunday. He addressed the situation Tuesday for the first time, saying he "keeps his personal life personal."
"I'm not going to comment on my personal life," he said. "I never have and I never plan on it. I keep my personal life personal. The focus for me is on the Detroit Tigers."
Verlander said he's "always been good" at blocking out distractions.
"This is my life. Baseball's my life," he said. "You're able to focus on that especially when you're on the mound doing what I've done my whole life."
The right-hander will be looking to capitalize on the momentum from one of his best showings of the season. He limited the White Sox to one run and matched a season high with eight strikeouts over seven innings in a 7-1 road victory Friday.
Verlander is 2-1 with a 2.18 ERA in his last five matchups with Cleveland, including a 1-1 record with a 3.50 ERA in three this season.
The Tigers (76-62) haven't won six straight in Cleveland since a seven-game streak from Aug. 22, 1987-Sept. 26, 1988, but are in position to do so after J.D. Martinez's three-run homer in the ninth propelled them to a 4-2 victory Tuesday. It kept them within a half-game of first place Kansas City in the AL Central.
Miguel Cabrera was 3 for 5 while resting his sore right ankle as the designated hitter for the second straight game. He has hit .407 with 10 homers and 29 RBIs over his last 21 games at Progressive Field.
"The idea is to control Miggy's discomfort as much as possible," manager Brad Ausmus told MLB's official website.
Cabrera is 3 for 7 with a home run against Wednesday's starter Danny Salazar (5-6, 4.23), who owns a 1.69 ERA over his last three starts. He won for the first time in four outings Friday when he threw five shutout innings in a 6-1 victory at Kansas City. Salazar logged 73 pitches and likely would have went deeper if not for a 44-minute rain delay.
He is 0-1 with a 4.42 ERA in three career starts against Detroit. The right-hander gave up a season high-tying five runs over 4 2-3 innings in a 7-5 road loss on April 17.
Cleveland (70-66) has dropped two straight to fall five games back of the Tigers for the AL's second wild-card spot.
Alex Avila's status for Wednesday is unclear after Detroit's catcher left Tuesday's game in the sixth following a foul ball off his mask.
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- Justin Verlander
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