Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander throws to the Seattle Mariners in the first inning of a baseball game, Tuesday, May 8, 2012, in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)
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SEATTLE — Justin Verlander won his 12th straight decision on the road, Prince Fielder homered and the Detroit Tigers raced to an early lead before holding on for a 6-4 win over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.
Verlander wasn't his sharpest, giving up three runs and seven hits. But Verlander retired nine of his final 10 batters, struck out six and went at least six innings for the 49th straight start.
Andy Dirks had a single, double and drove in three runs in his first two at-bats, helping give Verlander (3-1) a 5-0 lead.
Seattle starter Kevin Millwood, who struggled early before making it through five innings.
Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit worked the seventh and eighth innings and Jose Valverde pitched a shaky ninth for his sixth save in eight chances despite loading the bases.
Valverde got rookie Jesus Montero to pop out down the right field line to end it. Defensive replacement Don Kelly crashed into the stands to make the game-ending catch.
Millwood (0-4) barely made it through the second and remained winless with the Mariners. Austin Jackson doubled on the second pitch of the game and Dirks immediately followed with a single for a 1-0 lead. Millwood escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first, and again in the fifth, but was tagged for four runs in the second.
Brennan Boesch and Gerald Laird opened the inning with singles and scored on Dirks' double. After an out, Millwood walked Fielder and Delmon Young made Seattle pay for pitching around Fielder with a line-drive double into the left-center field gap to score Dirks and Fielder, chugging around from first.
Despite numerous chances, the Tigers weren't able to add on until the seventh when Fielder lined a solo shot deep into the right field seats.
Tigers' manager Jim Leyland wasn't around to see the end of Detroit's first win over Seattle this year in five tries. Leyland was ejected by plate umpire Brian Knight in the bottom of the third inning after arguing balls and strikes. Leyland barked toward Knight after it was ruled that John Jaso held up on a 1-2 pitch that was low and was subsequently ejected.
The chatter wasn't done. After Verlander missed with his next pitch, he and Knight started yelling with teammates getting between the two. Verlander calmed down and eventually struck out Jaso. When Verlander finished off the sixth, his final inning, he went over and spoke with Knight, patting him on the back as he walked back to the Tigers dugout.
Seattle got to Verlander once in the third inning thanks to three straight singles from Dustin Ackley, Brendan Ryan and Ichiro Suzuki, the last one getting Seattle on the board. After an out, Seager followed with a two-run single to get the Mariners within 5-3. Seattle had a chance to trim the lead in the fourth, but Justin Smoak was left stranded at third.
The Mariners made it interesting in the seventh after Michael Saunders scored on Ryan's one-out RBI single to cut the lead to 6-4. But Coke got weak grounders from Suzuki and Montero to end the inning.
NOTES: The Tigers are without C Alex Avila until at least Thursday in Oakland due to a sore right patella tendon. Avila aggravated his knee in Monday night's loss and Leyland said Avila would not play either Tuesday or Wednesday to give the knee some rest. ... Seattle is unsure if RHP Blake Beavan will be ready to make his scheduled start on Sunday in New York. Beavan took a liner off his right arm in Monday's game. ... Since last season, Seattle had won five straight vs. Detroit.