Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander throws against the New York Mets during the first inning Thursday.
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DETROIT — By Justin Verlander’s lofty standards, this was a so-so performance.
It was more than enough to boost a battered Detroit pitching staff.
Verlander pitched seven solid innings Thursday to lead the Tigers to a 5-2 win over the big-hitting New York Mets. Detroit had allowed 30 runs in the first two games of the series, but Verlander finished a terrific June by holding New York at bay, preventing a sweep.
“Each day is a new day in baseball, and that’s the beautiful thing about this. They go out and score however many runs in two days with a bunch of hits, but you turn the page,” Verlander said. “You’ve got to know as a starting pitcher, no matter what they’ve done before, if you make your pitches and execute, good pitching beats good hitting.”
The Mets had scored a team-record 52 runs in their previous four games. Verlander (11-3) held them to one run and seven hits. He finished June with a 6-0 record and a 0.92 ERA, and tied CC Sabathia for the major league lead in wins this season.
Verlander has won his last seven starts, allowing two or fewer runs in each.
“He’s awesome,” Mets star Jose Reyes said. “We had him in trouble a couple times, but he always makes a pitch to get out of it. That’s why he is one of the best in the game.”
Daniel Murphy and Carlos Beltran homered for New York’s only runs. Andy Dirks hit a solo shot for the Tigers.
Mike Pelfrey (4-7) allowed four earned runs in 4 2-3 innings for the Mets, who start a three-game home series against the Yankees on Friday night.
Detroit needed a good start from Verlander after losing 16-9 the previous night and 14-3 on Tuesday. Every Tiger that pitched Wednesday gave up at least one run — except utilityman Don Kelly, who took the mound during the ninth that night in an amusing scene.
Verlander was up to the task. He threw 120 pitches, striking out six and walking two. It wasn’t his most dominating effort, but it came at an important time.
“I didn’t pitch well, I battled well,” Verlander said. “That’s something I pride myself on. I’ve been on a pretty good run here, had pretty doggone good stuff for a period of time here. You’ve got to know that that’s not going to last an entire season.”
About the only thing Verlander didn’t do was get Reyes out. The splendid shortstop reached base in all three plate appearances against the Detroit ace, but didn’t come around to score.
Reyes led off the game with a double, and the Mets seemed ready to break loose once again. But Jason Pridie followed by lining into a double play.
Verlander said the Tigers actually caught a break when they let Reyes stretch his bloop hit into a double because second baseman Ramon Santiago stayed in position to catch Pridie’s hit.
“We kind of got lucky there,” Verlander said. “If he’s on first base — that’s assuming he hasn’t stolen second base yet — we’re playing double-play depth. That ball off the end of the bat is a base hit.”
With the Mets down 5-1, Lucas Duda led off the seventh with a triple, but he was thrown out by left fielder Brennan Boesch when he tagged up and tried to score on a fly ball. Mets manager Terry Collins came out to argue, but to no avail.
“The way he’s pitching right now, it’s unbelievable,” Dirks said. “We just try to play good defense behind him and put up some runs and win the ballgame.”
Joaquin Benoit relieved Verlander and allowed Beltran’s 12th homer of the season. The Mets hit no homers in their 16-run outburst Wednesday.
Jose Valverde finished for his 19th save.
Pelfrey gave up eight hits and struck out three. He tied a career high with five walks, all in the first three innings. Detroit left the bases loaded in the first, but Austin Jackson hit an RBI single for the Tigers in the second to make it 1-all after Murphy homered in the top half.
The Tigers loaded the bases with one out in the third, and Alex Avila hit a sacrifice fly. Santiago then hit an RBI single, and center fielder Angel Pagan’s throw to third was wild for an error, allowing another run to come home.
Dirks homered in the fifth to make it 5-1.
New York right-hander Manny Acosta left in the eighth with a hyperextended wrist on his throwing arm after making an acrobatic play to field a bunt by Santiago.
NOTES: Dirks, a rookie, has six homers in 92 at-bats. ... Reyes’ double was his 213th, passing Edgardo Alfonzo for fourth place on the franchise’s career list.
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