HOUSTON (AP) — Justin Verlander had a puzzling day on the mound in his first-ever start against his previous team.
While Verlander racked up double-digit strikeouts, Detroit hammered four home runs off the former Tiger and snapped a six-game losing streak with a 6-3 win over the Houston Astros on Sunday.
“It was just an interesting day,” Verlander said. “Had great stuff. It seemed like any time I made a mistake they were on it in any capacity. If I didn’t, I struck them out. It was, like I said, one of the weirdest games of my career.”
Verlander (9-5) allowed a season-high six runs on six hits, striking out 12, as he lost his third straight decision.
The former Cy Young Award recipient won 183 games as a Tiger from 2005-2017 before he was traded to Houston.
“It was a little weird,” Verlander said. “I actually woke up early this morning, don’t usually do that. But it was a little weird knowing some of the guys in there, but you know once you cross the white lines it’s business as usual. It’s not like they had the same lineup. There were a lot of different guys that I didn’t really know in there.”
Verlander struck out 10 of the first 15 batters he faced but was hurt by the long ball.
Hicks connected in the second inning, a two-run shot to left center. In the fourth, Jeimer Candelario blasted the first pitch he saw into the Astros’ bullpen, making it 4-2.
“Strikeout numbers were higher than we want,” Hicks said. “We didn’t get a ton of hits, but the hits we got were big. We scored runs, and that’s what we needed.”
Detroit padded its lead in the sixth with a pair of solo shots by Niko Goodrum and Jim Adduci.
The Tigers had scored just five runs in their previous four games.
“Fortunately for us, Hicks comes in and puts a big swing on one,” Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Big home run off him got everyone excited in the dugout, and it went on from there. It doesn’t take away from how great that guy is. We all know he’s a great pitcher. We are pretty fortunate we banged him around a little bit.”
It was the first time Verlander had given up four homers in a game since June 26, 2016, against Cleveland. Verlander became the fifth pitcher in major league history to have 12 or more strikeouts while allowing four or more homers in a single game.
Francisco Liriano allowed one run in three innings before leaving with lower back tightness. Drew VerHagen (1-2) came in and allowed one run on two hits in three innings.
“My back was real tight,” Liriano said. “I couldn’t get loose at all. Nothing major. We were being careful. I tried to piece through it, but it was getting worse.”
Yuli Gurriel scored two runs and hit a sacrifice fly in the ninth for the Astros. Gurriel’s fourth-inning single extended his hitting streak to 12 games.
“It was kind of an off day for us,” Astros manager A.J. Hinch said. “I think here and there we put up some pretty good at-bats. But it was just a quiet day and quiet days aren’t our norm, but it kind of fell on the wrong day.”
The defending World Series champions head into the All-Star break at 64-35.
“I think our ability to handle the expectations thus far, the attention and all that comes with it has been remarkable,” Hinch said. “Again, not a surprise, but something that needs to be noted.”
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