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Tigers ride Porcello's softer side to victory

The SportsXchange

DETROIT -- Rick Porcello has discovered that the softer he throws, the harder he becomes to hit.

Porcello used his changeup frequently on Monday and that helped him strike out 10 in six innings, the second double-digit strikeout total in his five-year career. His stellar outing led the Detroit Tigers to a 4-2 victory over the struggling Seattle Mariners on Monday at Comerica Park.

Porcello (13-8), who won for the ninth time in his last 11 decisions, fell one shy of his career high in strikeouts. He had 11 against Pittsburgh on May 28.

He threw a complete game against the Chicago White Sox in his previous start by also mixing in his changeup with his sinking fastball and slider.

"It's been in and out for me all year," Porcello said. "Today and in my Chicago start, I found it. I was down in the strike zone with it and got some swings and misses. It's been a good pitch for me the past two starts."

Teammate Torii Hunter, who had two hits and an RBI, views Porcello's expanded repertoire as a sign of maturity.

"He used to throw everything hard, so you could kind of gauge it off that," Hunter said. "Now, he's starting to hit his spots. In and out, hard and soft, and he'll change up his sequence a lot."

Joaquin Benoit notched his 21st save, Omar Infante added two hits and an RBI and Victor Martinez drove in the go-ahead run for the Tigers. They led Cleveland by five games in the American League Central heading into the opener of the four-game series.

Detroit scored its last three runs with two outs.

"We've faced some good pitching lately and we just try to grind it out and get some timely hits," Hunter said. "Early in the game, we're trying to feel the pitchers out. Later, we pick up on some things and that's what happens with a veteran ball club."

Abraham Almonte had a solo homer for the Mariners, who have lost seven of their last eight.

Detroit broke a 1-1 tie with two runs in the sixth. After Seattle starter Joe Saunders (11-15) retired the first two batters, he walked Miguel Cabrera. Prince Fielder, Martinez and Infante followed with singles to knock Saunders out of the game. Martinez's single scored Cabrera, and Infante brought home Fielder.

Saunders threw a temper tantrum in the dugout after being removed, scattering some cups and water bottles.

"I thought Joe threw the ball well against a tough lineup," manager Eric Wedge said. "He did a good job of pitching inside and was using his breaking ball a little more. In that final inning, he gets two outs and then you don't mind him walking Cabrera. Fielder hits one off the end of the bat and Victor pulls one down the right-field line. They're professional hitters, some of the best professional hitters in the game."

Wedge was just as impressed with Porcello's professional approach.

"He's more of a complete pitcher now than he was three or four years ago," he said. "He's got more weapons."

Hunter's RBI single in the seventh off Tom Wilhelmsen made the score 4-1. Justin Smoak's run-scoring single in the eighth off Drew Smyly pulled the Mariners within two runs.

Hunter scored on Saunders' wild pitch in the first inning to give Detroit the early lead. Hunter had singled and advanced to third on Cabrera's single.

Almonte's second career homer tied it in the third. He drilled Porcello's 2-2 pitch into the right field stands.

NOTES: SS Jhonny Peralta, who is serving a 50-game suspension as part of Major League Baseball's Biogenesis investigation, will join the Tigers' instructional league in Lakeland, Fla., on Wednesday. Peralta, who has been working out with the Tigers since last week, will play exclusively in left field during his rehab stint. Rookie Jose Iglesias has emerged as Detroit's starting shortstop during Peralta's suspension. Peralta is expected to rejoin the Tigers for the final regular-season series in Miami, Sept. 27-29, but his postseason status remains uncertain. ... Mariners RHP Felix Hernandez threw a bullpen session Monday, but he will not pitch in the series. Hernandez, who is dealing with a left oblique injury, wants to throw at least one more bullpen session before returning to the rotation. He has not started since Sept. 2. ... Infante was in the lineup despite getting hit in the right leg by a Martinez line drive during batting practice. ... Detroit had an American League-best .285 average entering the game, while Seattle was last at .239. ... The Mariners had won nine of their previous 11 games at Comerica Park before losing Monday.
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