OAKLAND, Calif. -- It's still only April, but Detroit Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander said he's already thinking about promoting another teammate for American League MVP.
Verlander won the award two years ago, and last year he campaigned for Tigers third baseman Miguel Cabrera, the eventual MVP. Verlander even had T-shirts made that read, "Keep the MVP" in Detroit.
This year, Verlander has his eye on Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder, who is off to a red-hot start in his second season with Detroit.
Fielder hit his fourth home run of the season and went 2-for-3 Saturday in a 7-3 victory over Oakland, as the Tigers snapped the A's nine-game winning streak.
"I got to watch him hit all last year, and I think he's going to be even better this year," said Verlander, who held the A's to one run on three hits over six innings, improving to 2-1. "I don't think it's any stretch of the imagination that he has a good chance to win the MVP in this league, after having seen it for a year.
"It's a big adjustment coming to the American League. (Cabrera) had that adjustment period. Obviously, the guy has that talent. He hit (.313) with 30 (home runs) last year. Guys with that talent are still going to get theirs, but when you're learning the league it takes a little bit of time. You don't know most of the guys. And then I think he's much more comfortable now having seen most of the pitchers in this league. That's a big difference for hitters."
Fielder raised his average to .436 and drove in a run, giving him 18 for the season. He extended his hitting streak to eight games. During that stretch, Fielder has gone 15-for-27 (.556) with six runs, three doubles, four home runs and 17 RBI.
Tigers manager Jim Leyland said this is the best stretch Fielder has had as a Tiger.
"I guess," Fielder said. "If I'm feeling good and having good swings, that's all I worry about because the results you can't control.
"I think when you start looking at results, that's when you start becoming poopy and being a child. So I just try to be an adult and try to have good swings and good at-bats and try to help my team win."
Verlander picked up Saturday where he left off last season in the American League Division Series, beating the Oakland A's twice in Games 1 and 5.
Verlander wasn't as sharp as he was against the A's in the postseason. He threw 111 pitches in six innings, which forced manager Jim Leyland to go to his bullpen earlier than he had hoped.
But the Tigers didn't need vintage Verlander to beat the A's and left-hander Brett Anderson.
Johnny Peralta hit a three-run homer, while Torii Hunter and Fielder launched solo shots off Anderson, staking Verlander to an early 5-1 lead.
Anderson gave up eight hits and seven earned runs over 5.2 innings as his record fell to 1-2 and his ERA jumped from 1.38 to 4.34. The three home runs he allowed matched his career high.
"I never really got into a rhythm," Anderson said. "Solo home runs don't usually beat you and the three-run shot hurt. I made mistakes. The slider was probably the worst it's been since I've been in the big leagues. It didn't have its usual sharpness or depth."
The A's struck first, taking a 1-0 lead in the second inning. Seth Smith lined a one-out single to center off Verlander, moved to second on Josh Donaldson's sharp single and scored on Derek Norris' two-out base hit to left.
Detroit pulled even in the third on Hunter's booming home run to deep left off Anderson, his first blast as a Tiger. Hunter, a former member of the Los Angeles Angels, came into the game hitting .438 against Anderson with two home runs. After fouling off four pitches, he ripped a 0-2 slider into the left-field seats.
"He kept fouling off slider after slider after slider so I tried to throw one lower than low and it popped out of my hand and into his barrel-house," Anderson said. "He hit it 600 feet."
Actually, an estimated 463 feet, according to ESPN.
The Tigers got to Anderson for four more runs in the fourth, taking a 5-1 lead. Fielder led off with a monstrous blast over the right-center wall for his fourth home run of the season and second in two days against the A's.
Victor Martinez kept the rally going with a line drive single to center. After Matt Tuiasosopo walked, Peralta launched Anderson's 3-2 fastball deep into the left-field seats.
The Tigers added two runs in the seventh when Brayan Pena doubled home Omar Infante, ending Anderson's day, and Austin Jackson hit an RBI double off reliever Pat Neshek.
Verlander left the game with a 7-1 lead after lobbying Leyland to let him pitch longer. He said he pitched "OK" but not great.
"Obviously I saw the ballgame yesterday," Verlander said. "I knew our bullpen was kind of drained. I would have liked to have gone more than six, but those guys battled me.
"It was kind of a combination of those guys battling me on some pitches and me not executing on some pitches and causing myself to throw a little bit more than I had to. But hey, we got the win. All in all, a good day."
The A's scored twice in the seventh off Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque. Eric Sogard walked and went to third on Norris' double. Chris Young brought them both home with a double to left, cutting Detroit's lead to 7-3.
A's manager Bob Melvin was ejected by home plate umpire Andy Fletcher in the bottom of the eighth, shortly after Brandon Moss struck out looking. Moss appeared to take issue with the call, and Melvin sprinted out of the dugout and began arguing vehemently with Fletcher.
Of the A's 13 strikeouts, six were on called third strikes.
"It's pretty well documented what I think," Melvin said. "Again, you don't want to make excuses. We got beat today, but you get frustrated at times, too."
The A's loaded the bases in the eighth, but pinch-hitter Jed Lowrie struck out looking against Joaquin Benoit, ending the inning.
The A's went into Saturday's game without left fielder Yoenis Cespedes and center fielder Coco Crisp, who were both injured during Friday night's 4-2, 12-inning win over Detroit.
Cespedes went on the 15-day disabled list with a strained muscle on his left hand, an injury he suffered while sliding awkwardly at second base in the eighth inning. Crisp got the day off to rest a sore left groin.
NOTES: The A's recalled outfielder Michael Taylor from Triple-A Sacramento to take Cespedes' place on the 25-man roster. ... Cespedes had an MRI on Saturday that revealed no ligament or structural damage, Melvin said. He spent time on the DL last year with a similar injury to his left hand. "We want to make sure he's 100 percent healthy when he gets back," Melvin said. "All things considered, you certainly hope when a guy goes in an MRI tube that there's no ligament damage and you're not looking at surgery," Melvin said. "But that being one of the potential options, maybe we got a little bit of a break as far as just a strain of the muscle." ... Crisp, who left Friday night's game after the ninth inning, is day-to-day, Melvin said. "It just happened I think when they threw over a couple times on him. He actually played with it for a couple innings. He's feeling a little bit better today. It's literally day to day, whether it's tomorrow or the next day." ... The Tigers have a day off Monday and announced that they'll skip right-hander Rick Porcello's turn in the rotation. He was scheduled to pitch Tuesday at Seattle, but Doug Fister will now start that game. He was available out of the bullpen Saturday and warmed up. ... Left-handed reliever Phil Coke missed Friday night's game with an illness but said he was feeling "a lot better" Saturday and made an appearance, allowing no runs and one hit in two-thirds of an inning. "I couldn't really stand up without losing my equilibrium (Friday)," Coke said. "I'm good." ... Tigers reliever Octavio Dotel's pitching elbow became sore Friday night, limiting him to two-thirds of an inning. He wasn't available Saturday and won't be Sunday, either. "I've just got inflammation," Dotel said. "Hopefully in the next couple days it will go away."