With a major move at the trade deadline, the Detroit Tigers now have the last three AL Cy Young Award recipients in their rotation. One part of that trio, Justin Verlander, hasn't pitched much like a Cy Young winner this season but has done enough to add to his sterling interleague record.
Verlander will seek to run his win streak over the NL to 14 games Friday night versus the lowly Colorado Rockies while delivering a boost to the slumping AL Central leaders.
Detroit (58-47) acquired David Price from Tampa Bay in a three-team deal Thursday while sending Austin Jackson to Seattle and Drew Smyly along with minor leaguer Willy Adames to the Rays. Price won the 2012 Cy Young Award after Verlander took the honor in 2011, and Tigers right-hander Max Scherzer won it last year.
"We're built to try to go for (a championship)," general manager Dave Dombrowski said. "We've played well, but I think we can play better. ... You can put out whoever you want but you still have to perform and get it done."
Jackson and Smyly played on the day the deal happened as the Tigers suffered their fifth loss in six games and eighth in 12 home contests, 7-4 to the Chicago White Sox.
"These guys are awesome. We have a great team, a winning team," Smyly said. "So it's hard to say goodbye, but it's part of baseball."
Despite the recent struggles, Detroit owns a fairly comfortable lead in the Central but would love to see Verlander (9-9, 4.79 ERA) return to his dominant form. The right-hander has his highest ERA since 2008 but has been decent in his last two outings.
He yielded three runs in seven innings of a 4-0 defeat to the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday, five days after allowing three runs in 6 2-3 innings in a 4-3 win in Arizona. That marked his 13th consecutive winning decision against an NL team dating to a road loss to the New York Mets on June 22, 2010.
Verlander is 24-2 with a 2.75 ERA in 31 career interleague starts, including wins in all three such matchups this year. He is 14-0 with a 2.14 ERA in 15 home starts against the NL, and he's facing a league-worst Rockies team which has lost six straight interleague road games and 18 of 22.
Colorado (44-64) has dropped 15 of 17 on the road and 29 of 39 overall after a 3-1 loss to the Chicago Cubs on Thursday.
Injuries to two of its top hitters, Troy Tulowitzki (hip) and Michael Cuddyer (shoulder), haven't helped.
The Rockies will face Verlander for the first time since a 9-1 loss in Denver on June 19, 2011. He's 1-0 with a 1.84 ERA in two career matchups.
Colorado's Franklin Morales (5-5, 5.18) will make his first start against Detroit.
The left-hander is 1-1 with a 3.05 ERA in four starts since returning to the rotation but has struggled with his control, walking 14 in 20 2-3 innings. He matched a career high with five walks Sunday while allowing two runs and six hits, needing 99 pitches in four-plus innings of a 7-5 loss to Pittsburgh without getting a decision.
Rajai Davis, expected to take over Jackson's spot, is 4 for 7 in his career against Morales but 2 for 13 in his last four games.
Justin Morneau, 4 for 12 with three RBIs in three games since missing 2 1/2 weeks with a neck strain, has three hits in his last 24 at-bats against Verlander with 12 strikeouts.