DETROIT - Justin Verlander struggled for one inning last night, and that wasn't quite enough for the Texas Rangers.
After not allowing a hit for the first four innings, the Detroit Tigers' ace threw 41 pitches in the fifth. Unfortunately for the Rangers, the last one became a bases-loaded groundout by David Murphy, allowing Verlander to escape with the score tied at 1.
Detroit, which hit into a triple play in the fourth inning, scored four times in the sixth, starting with a solo homer by Wilkin Ramirez in his major league debut, and the Tigers went on to a 5-3 win, their fifth straight.
"That fifth inning killed my pitch count, but I think it was the turning point of the game that I got out of it with only one run," Verlander said. "That gave the offense a chance to break it open."
Verlander acknowledged his preparation leading to the fifth was a little rushed after the Rangers abruptly ended the bottom of the fourth with their first triple play since 2002.
"I'm usually ready for a team to turn an inning-ending double play, but I didn't even think about them doing that," he said.
Verlander (6-3) gave up one run and walked two to improve to 4-0 with a 1.02 ERA in his last five starts. He did fall short of becoming the first pitcher in Tigers history to strike out 10 or more batters in four straight starts, finishing with eight.
"There were a lot of positives again tonight," Verlander said. "I was aware of the strikeout record, but I wasn't trying to do anything special. I haven't tried anything special the last three games, and that's how I've gotten double digits."
Matt Harrison (4-3) took the loss, allowing five runs and nine hits in five-plus innings.
Three Detroit relievers finished, with Fernando Rodney pitching the ninth for his seventh save in as many opportunities.
The Tigers took a 1-0 lead on Ryan Raburn's third homer in the second inning, and they threatened in the fourth when Brandon Inge led off with a double and Raburn walked.
The runners broke on a 1-0 pitch to Gerald Laird, and he lined out to second baseman Ian Kinsler, who flipped to Elvis Andrus. The shortstop stepped on the base, doubling off Inge, then tagged Raburn. Kinsler could have turned an unassisted triple play, but said that he didn't realize it in time.
"Elvis was screaming for the ball, so I got it to him before I saw where the runners were," Kinsler said. "Something like that is just complete luck. They've got the hit-and-run on, and he hits a line drive right at me. You can't really plan something like that."
It was the third triple play in the majors this season.
After the Rangers tied the game in the fifth, Ramirez led off the sixth with a 433-foot homer into the shrubs above the fence in center field. The last Tiger to homer in his major league debut was Reggie Sanders in 1974.
"Before the game, I was wondering how great it would be if I could hit a home run for my first hit, so I couldn't believe it when I did it," said Ramirez, who had struck out in his first two at-bats. "As soon I as hit the ball, I knew it was gone."
Miguel Cabrera followed with a single, and Inge made it 4-1 with his 11th homer before the Tigers added a run in the inning on a wild pitch by Jason Jennings. The Rangers cut the deficit to 5-2 in the seventh when Nelson Cruz homered on Brandon Lyon's first pitch.
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