Verlander gets plenty of support, beats A's again

JANIE McCAULEY (AP Baseball Writer)
The Associated Press

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- Justin Verlander will make the call, even if it's just mid-April: Prince Fielder for AL MVP.

No pressure on the big fella intended from the guy who won that award plus the Cy Young two years ago. No T-shirt campaign yet.

Fielder homered for the second straight game, Torii Hunter hit his first clout since joining Detroit to help back Verlander and the Tigers snapped the Oakland Athletics' nine-game winning streak with a 7-3 victory Saturday.

Jhonny Peralta followed Fielder's leadoff shot in the fourth with a three-run homer, and the Tigers didn't let the A's back into this one a day after losing 4-3 in 12 innings.

After hitting a three-run homer during a four-hit game Friday, Fielder extended his hitting streak to eight games with a two-out single in the first and connected for his fourth homer. He walked in the fifth and seventh.

''I think he's going to even better this year. I don't think it's any stretch of the imagination that he's got a good chance to win the MVP in this league,'' Verlander said. ''He's definitely got the talent to do it and everybody knows he can. I don't want anybody to get ahead of themselves.''

A's nemesis Verlander (2-1) outpitched Oakland lefty Brett Anderson before a sellout crowd of 35,067, similar to those spirited fans who packed the Coliseum for last fall's division series between these clubs.

Verlander, making his third start since signing a $180 million, seven-year contract on March 29, pitched the Tigers past the A's 6-0 in the Game 5 clincher at the Coliseum last October after winning the opener.

''I don't really think about it, to be honest with you,'' Verlander said. ''The fans reminded me with their boos.''

This time, he shut down the AL's hottest team. Even dropping to 9-3, the A's have tied the second-best mark in club history after 12 games.

Oakland manager Bob Melvin was ejected by plate umpire Andy Fletcher in the bottom of the eighth for arguing after Brandon Moss was called out on strikes. The A's loaded the bases that inning but pinch-hitter Jed Lowrie struck out looking against Joaquin Benoit.

Verlander, who took a 7-0 loss his last time out against the Yankees, had to throw 31 pitches in the fourth, taking him to 79 - and that inning kept him from pitching the seventh. The right-hander struck out six and walked three in six innings, allowing one run and three hits. He gave way to Al Alburquerque after 111 pitches.

Chris Young, playing center field in place of the injured Coco Crisp, hit a two-out, two-run double in the seventh and Tigers manager Jim Leyland turned to Phil Coke. He retired Josh Reddick on a grounder.

Verlander got plenty of run support.

Leyland sees this as Fielder's best stretch since leaving Milwaukee to join the Tigers on a $214 million, nine-year contract before last season. Fielder won't evaluate himself, not now.

''I just try to be a dog and have good swings, at-bats,'' Fielder said.

Brayan Pena's RBI double in the sixth chased Anderson, then Pat Neshek immediately gave up a run-scoring double to Austin Jackson.

Anderson (1-2) allowed three home runs, matching a career high. He was tagged for seven runs, eight hits and three walks in 5 2-3 innings.

Derek Norris hit a two-out RBI single in the second, and Hunter tied the game at 1 in the top of the third.

Hunter's first homer since signing with Detroit during the offseason was a memorable drive that landed a few rows shy of the glass luxury suites high in the left-field seats.

''I never really got into a rhythm,'' Anderson said. ''Solo home runs don't usually beat you. The three-run homer was kind of the tip of the iceberg. That's a good lineup. I made some mistakes and they made me pay for them.''

The short-handed A's were forced to shuffle their outfield because Crisp is nursing a strained left groin and left fielder Yoenis Cespedes was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a strained muscle in his left hand.

Omar Infante singled in the fourth for a nine-game hitting streak as the first five batters of the inning reached base against Anderson.

NOTES: Crisp is expected to sit out Sunday again. ... Tigers RHP reliever Octavio Dotel will rest his inflamed elbow again Sunday. ''It's better to miss one or two days than miss three months,'' he said. ... Peralta hit just his second homer in Oakland. ... The Tigers will skip RHP Rick Porcello's turn in the rotation. He was scheduled to pitch Tuesday at Seattle, but Doug Fister will now go that day. Detroit has a day off Monday, and Leyland said that factored into the decision. ... Coke missed Friday's game with an illness. After arriving at the ballpark, he was sent back to the hotel. ... Detroit C Alex Avila, who took a foul ball off his right shin and was hit in the head with a bat on a follow through Friday night, had the day off. ''I told him (Leyland) I'm fine,'' Avila said. ''Play me every day.'' ... The A's sold out for the second time in 2013. ... Lowrie struck out with the bases loaded for the 15th time in his career.

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