The Detroit Tigers haven't been swept in interleague play in eight seasons. Giving the ball to Justin Verlander could help them keep that streak alive.
Verlander looks to continue his mastery of NL foes as he takes the hill Sunday against the surging Pittsburgh Pirates.
Arguably no one in baseball has ever posted such eye-popping numbers against the opposite league as Verlander. The hard-throwing right-hander is 18-2 with a 2.67 ERA over 24 career interleague outings, compiling the highest winning percentage among pitchers with at least 10 starts.
Verlander (7-4, 2.57 ERA) has been especially sharp in his last eight matchups against the NL, going 7-0 with a 1.62 ERA while holding opponents to a .178 average.
Unfortunately for the Pirates (38-32), they've experienced some of that dominance first-hand. Verlander struck out a season-high 12 while throwing a one-hitter in a 6-0 victory May 18, improving to 2-0 with a 1.13 ERA over two starts in this series.
Josh Harrison broke up Verlander's no-hit bid with one out in the ninth inning.
"I've wanted to be a part of Tigers history since I was a little kid, and I almost was," Pirates manager and Michigan native Clint Hurdle told his team's official website after that game. "For my money, it was a thing of beauty to watch. That's a master craftsman with a power tool. He can take you places you don't want to go."
Verlander, though, appears to have a more difficult matchup this time around. Pittsburgh has batted .291, belted 13 homers and outscored opponents 43-14 over a 6-1 stretch.
Winners of 12 of 14 at home, the Pirates are coming off a pair of 4-1 victories over the Tigers (34-37). Brad Lincoln carried a no-hitter into the sixth inning Saturday while Andrew McCutchen provided most of the offense with a three-run homer, helping Pittsburgh move a season-high six games over .500.
"Hopefully, we can keep the momentum going," said McCutchen. "Different guys are coming through, getting on base and getting the big hits."
McCutchen, though, has been the most frequent contributor. He's 15 for 28 (.536) over a seven-game hitting streak, and he's batting .377 with 20 RBIs in 20 June games.
The Pirates now turn to Kevin Correia (3-6, 4.12), who earned his first home win of the season Tuesday in a 7-2 victory over Minnesota. The right-hander allowed four hits over 5 1-3 scoreless innings, lowering his ERA at PNC Park to 3.41.
While Correia's gone 0-10 with a 7.27 ERA in 14 home starts versus NL opponents since joining the Pirates last season, he's compiled a 2.50 ERA in winning all three of his interleague starts in Pittsburgh.
"I feel like I've been pitching a lot better at home. I knew the wins would come," he said. "I continue to do weird things here. All three of my wins have been over American League teams."
Correia allowed two runs in 6 2-3 innings to defeat the Tigers on May 21, 2011, but more recently gave up three runs over six-plus innings in a 4-3 loss in Detroit on May 20. He can't be looking forward to facing Miguel Cabrera, who's gone 8 for 16 with a homer in their matchups.
Cabrera connected for his 15th homer of the season Saturday, but that's his only hit in his last 17 at-bats.
The Tigers have lost six of seven in Pittsburgh but haven't been swept by an NL club since suffering three straight defeats at Colorado from July 2-4, 2004. They dropped the first two games of five different interleague sets in 2011 but salvaged the finale of each.