Tigers-Reds Preview

The Associated Press

Justin Verlander showed once again why he's the winningest pitcher in interleague history in his first start against an NL team this year.

Now he'll get his first look at a red-hot Joey Votto.

The Detroit Tigers ace has stumbled in losing his last three outings heading into Saturday's matchup with Votto and the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park.

Verlander (5-4, 2.67 ERA) is 16-2 with a 2.75 ERA in 21 interleague starts after a spectacular performance May 18 in a 6-0 home win over Pittsburgh. Flirting with a third career no-hitter, he allowed a one-out single in the ninth inning by Josh Harrison for the Pirates' only hit of the contest and finished with a season-high 12 strikeouts.

The right-hander is 0-3 with a 4.43 ERA in his three starts since that effort. He allowed five runs and issued a season-high four walks Sunday in a 5-1 home defeat to the Yankees, dropping three straight outings for the first time since losing four in a row July 26-Aug. 11, 2006.

Verlander has never faced the Reds (32-25) and Votto, who has matched the longest hitting streak of his career at 14 games. The Cincinnati slugger is batting .549 with three homers and 10 RBIs during his run after going 3 for 5 with a three-run homer in Friday's 6-5, 10-inning victory.

While he is no doubt relishing the chance to face Votto, Verlander would like to break through at the plate after going 0 for 20 with 13 strikeouts to start his career.

"I work on it, I went out there and got my practice and actually made some adjustments and felt like I've got a better swing than I had before, but I'm not worried about it," Verlander told the Tigers' official website. "It's going to be fun."

Verlander and Detroit (26-32) will try to keep Bronson Arroyo (2-4, 3.91) winless at home. Arroyo is 0-1 with a 4.03 ERA in five starts in Cincinnati, although the Reds have won each time he didn't get a decision.

Arroyo fell to 0-3 with a 5.46 ERA in his last five outings after losing his second straight start, 5-3 at Houston on Sunday. He yielded five runs over 6 1-3 innings.

The veteran right-hander is 2-1 with a 4.65 ERA in five career starts against the Tigers, a club he has not faced since 2005. He is most familiar with former Milwaukee slugger Prince Fielder, who is 10 for 42 against him.

The Tigers, losers of eight of 11, may get some help Saturday since manager Jim Leyland said that center fielder Austin Jackson could join the team from a rehab stint with Triple-A Toledo. Jackson, hitting .331 on the year, has been on the disabled list since May 17 with a strained abdomen.

Jackson's return means that rookie Quintin Berry may have to sit after batting .288 with 15 runs scored in 16 games.

Fielder had a rough return Friday in his first game in an NL Central park since leaving the Brewers, going 0 for 4 as his 14-game hitting streak ended. He batted .423 with 12 RBIs during that run.

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