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Published: Monday, 5/3/2010

Verlander dazzles Angels


DETROIT - Justin Verlander has his groove back.

That's not good news for the opposition.

Verlander gave up just three hits, and Miguel Cabrera hit an RBI single in a four-run fifth inning, giving the Detroit Tigers a 5-1 win Sunday over the Los Angeles Angels.

"That's about as close as you're going to get to a no-hitter without throwing one," Detroit catcher Alex Avila said. "He was in a zone."

Verlander (2-2) retired 23 in a row before Maicer Izturis hit a one-out single in the ninth and Erick Aybar followed with an RBI single to end his day.

Torii Hunter hit a two-out single off Verlander in the first, then the Angels failed to reach base until the ninth.

"That wasn't fair," Hunter said. "It was like PlayStation."

Verlander didn't walk a batter and struck out seven, matching a season high, over 81/3 innings against the Angels after not giving up an earned run in his last outing and striking out seven Minnesota Twins. The previous four starts were lackluster at best.

"I definitely had a groove going, and it was easy to repeat my delivery, which is what I've been working on," Verlander said.

The right-hander did get some help from his teammates, such as third baseman Brandon Inge, who robbed Reggie Willits of a bunt single in the third by charging to field the ball with his bare hand and making an off-balance throw to first.

Sometimes, though, Verlander didn't need any help, like when Mike Napoli swung and missed on a 99-mph pitch that was his 101st of the day and the final one of the eighth. It drew a standing ovation.

Verlander also beat the Angels with finesse, buckling Brandon Wood on an 82-mph pitch that sent him to the dugout for the first out of the ninth.

"That's what you're supposed to do, keeping guys off balance so they can't sit on one speed," he said.

Jered Weaver (3-1) had all of his pitches working until the fifth inning.

The Tigers had just three hits over the first four innings of the scoreless game against Weaver before Cabrera chased him with their fourth single of the fifth. Weaver allowed four runs on seven hits and a walk in 42/3 innings.

"First couple of innings, he threw a lot of pitches," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He had to pitch out of a couple of jams. It caught up with him later."

Weaver was on a roll until he pitched in the Motor City, not losing any of his previous four starts and giving up one or two runs over that stretch, but he was unfazed.

"One of those games you have to take with a grain of salt," he said.

Detroit has won five straight and improved to 9-3 at home, where it won five of six against Minnesota and Los Angeles.

"Pretty impressive," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

Detroit didn't help Verlander out offensively until rookies Alex Avila and Scott Sizemore led off the fifth with singles and Ramon Santiago followed an RBI single.

Rookie Brennan Boesch hit the first pitch Jason Bulger threw for a double, making it 4-0. Austin Jackson, another rookie, gave the Tigers a five-run lead with his third hit of the afternoon.

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