SAN DIEGO (AP) — Justin Verlander threw 31 pitches in the first inning Saturday night, with the San Diego Padres taking advantage with two singles, a walk and a sacrifice fly to tie the game at 1.
The Padres didn’t get much more off Verlander, who had the first two hits of his career and pitched seven strong innings to lead the Detroit Tigers to a 6-2 victory over the Padres.
“He had to pitch to get out of the first inning,” Padres manager Bud Black said. “We had some counts, some at-bats then after the first inning when he started throwing strikes. We just couldn’t square any balls up.
“We had some opportunities. Not a ton, but we made him work,” Black said. “We just couldn’t push anything across as we got to the middle innings. He started whipping that curve in the fifth, sixth and seventh innings and high fastballs, and we just couldn’t get to him.”
Verlander, who came in 0 for 26 with 15 strikeouts, singled up the middle off Ian Kennedy in the second inning and had a base hit to right in the fourth, although he had to hustle to avoid being thrown out by Chris Denorfia. Verlander scored on Torii Hunter’s two-run single in the fourth.
The sight of Verlander (1-1) on the mound at Petco Park was another reminder of how the Padres flubbed the top pick in the June 2004 amateur draft. Not wanting to pay a big signing bonus, the team passed on players such as Jered Weaver, Stephen Drew and Verlander in favor of local shortstop Matt Bush.
Bush, who signed for $3 million, never reached the big leagues and had numerous off-field problems. In December 2012, he was sentenced to four years and three months in a Florida prison for a drunken driving hit-and-run crash.
Verlander was taken by the Tigers with the second pick. He has thrown two no-hitters and came within two outs of a third, won the AL MVP and Cy Young Award in 2011, was voted AL Rookie of the Year in 2006 and is a six-time All-Star.
Verlander allowed two runs and eight hits, struck out eight and walked one. He improved to 2-0 against the Padres, having also beaten them at Petco Park in 2008.
“He keeps the ball down,” San Diego’s Yonder Alonso said. “He goes up whenever he wants to. He has full control of his pitches. When we did get pitches to hit, we were either fouling them off or hitting them right at people.”
The Tigers had plenty of offense one night after being held to one hit by Andrew Cashner in a 6-0 loss. Austin Jackson hit a two-run double one batter after Miguel Cabrera was intentionally walked to load the bases in the ninth; Hunter, who missed the previous two games with a bruised left knee, hit a two-run single; and Cabrera and Ian Kinsler each had an RBI double. Rajai Davis scored three runs.
San Diego got its runs on Jedd Gyorko’s sacrifice fly and Yasmani Grandal’s RBI single.
Kennedy (1-2) allowed four runs and eight hits in six innings. He struck out seven and walked one.
NOTES: A candidate in the Padres’ in-season contest to find a new public address announcer committed a big flub in the first inning. As Cabrera, the two-time AL MVP, walked to the plate, he was announced as Austin Jackson. Cabrera turned and looked up at the booth. Frank Anthony, the Padres’ PA announcer since Petco Park opened in 2004, was fired in January so the team could hold open tryouts as part of the 10th anniversary of Petco Park. ... Padres manager Bud Black won his first replay challenge when umpires ruled that Nick Castellanos was out when he was originally ruled safe on Grandal’s pickoff attempt at second base. Black tried to challenge a call against the Dodgers on April 2 but the umpires said he wasn’t quick enough. ... New Mayor Kevin Faulconer threw out the ceremonial first pitch. ... The series concludes Sunday when reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (0-0, 1.20 ERA) is scheduled to face Tyson Ross (0-2, 4.35).