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Verlander Puts Bite Back in the Tigers

September 08, 2006|From the Associated Press

MINNEAPOLIS — Detroit's once-staggering lead in the division race has dwindled, but the Tigers are following Manager Jim Leyland's example and trying to keep their cool down the stretch.

"I'll panic when my kid flunks math," Leyland deadpanned in his raspy voice after Justin Verlander pitched the Tigers past Minnesota, 7-2, Thursday night to extend their AL Central lead to five games over the second-place Twins.

Verlander gave up one run in seven innings for the Tigers, who once led the division by 10 games but are 10-18 since Aug. 7.

"It's nice to get a win under your belt, but we're smart enough to know that this thing is going to go back and forth to the end," Leyland said.

Curtis Granderson hit a tone-setting home run on the third pitch of the game by Scott Baker (4-8), and Marcus Thames took Baker deep in the second, a two-run shot that put Detroit up, 3-0.

Verlander (16-7) didn't need any more support, but he got a two-run single by Craig Monroe in the fifth and a home run by Ivan Rodriguez in the seventh off Matt Guerrier.

Michael Cuddyer stopped the shutout with his 21st homer in the bottom of that inning, one of eight hits scattered by Verlander -- who walked two, struck out five and had his curveball working well.

"He ate us up," Manager Ron Gardenhire said. "This guy tonight can do that to you. Some of the others we've faced, maybe not. But he was nasty."

The Twins have scored more than two runs only twice in their last 11 games.

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