DENVER (AP) — Justin Verlander felt a little fatigue in the back of his shoulder and called it a day early.
Nothing to be concerned about or anything, he said, just the side effects of swinging the bat so well.
Verlander struck out nine over six commanding innings and drove in his first career run to help the Detroit Tigers beat the Colorado Rockies 6-2 on Wednesday.
“I’ll take (the soreness) for an RBI,” Verlander cracked.
Verlander (10-8) allowed one run and three hits. His only mistake was a curveball that Charlie Blackmon hit for a solo homer in the sixth. Verlander also ignited the offense with an RBI single in the second.
“I told him before the game, I said, ‘Your goal is to drive in more than you let in,'” recounted catcher James McCann , who sealed the game with a three-run shot in the fifth. “He drove in one and let in one. I guess I’ll give it to him.”
Not a bad swing, either, as Verlander lined a two-out slider from Chad Bettis (0-2) that fell in front of Blackmon. Verlander entered the game 3 for 40 in his career with 20 strikeouts.
Although he’s been practicing in the cage, the intensity of stepping into the box can’t be replicated. It may have led to stress on his shoulder/back area.
“I would call it irregular soreness, but not anything to do with pitching,” Verlander explained. “Not used to hitting, probably the altitude and a lot of things. Maybe a little dehydration. … That’s why it’s hard to win here. There are a lot of elements besides pitching on the road.”
Still, Verlander once again tamed Coors Field in his second career start at the hitter’s park. He also tossed a four-hitter on June 19, 2011.
Nicholas Castellanos added a solo homer as the Tigers captured two of three from Colorado.
The Rockies finished August with a 12-15 record — their first losing month of the season. They saw their lead for the second NL wild card shrink to three games over Milwaukee.
“We will continue to do what we’ve done all year. We will bounce back,” Rockies manager Bud Black said.
Bettis struggled with his control in his fourth start since returning from treatment for testicular cancer. He allowed five runs in five innings.
The breaking ball led to Bettis’ troubles all afternoon. Castellanos hit a curveball to left-center for his 19th homer of the season. McCann later hit a hanging slider from Bettis for a towering homer to left.
“It was poor execution pitching at a pivotal point in the game. I have to be better than that,” Bettis said.
Tigers: 1B Miguel Cabrera wasn’t in the starting lineup for a second straight game with back tightness. He entered as a pinch-hitter in the eighth with the bases loaded and hit into a double play. … LHP Daniel Norris (left groin strain) and RHP Anibal Sanchez (left hamstring strain) are scheduled to make rehab starts Thursday.
Rockies: Black remains hopeful that LHP Tyler Anderson (left knee) can help the Rockies’ playoff chase in September. Anderson will make a rehab start Thursday.
The window for Verlander to be traded may soon be coming to a close for the season. A player must be on a team’s roster before Sept. 1 to be eligible for postseason play with that team.
“It’s on my mind. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t,” Verlander said. “That’s not going to change what I have to do.”
THIS & THAT
Tigers SS Jose Iglesias finished 3 for 3 with three singles and a walk. … Blackmon has 84 RBIs this season, tying him with Taylor Douthit (1930) for second-most in NL history among leadoff hitters. Blackmon remains four behind the mark set by Craig Biggio in 1998.
Tigers: After a day off, Tigers have four games against Cleveland, including a doubleheader on Friday. LHP Matthew Boyd (5-8, 6.32 ERA) throws the opening game.
Rockies: Begin a pivotal three-game series against Arizona on Friday. LHP Kyle Freeland (11-8, 3.81) goes for the Rockies, while the Diamondbacks throw RHP Taijuan Walker (7-7, 3.55).