The last time Justin Verlander 's ERA was this poor this late in a season, he was finishing off a disappointing 2008 campaign that marks the worst of his career.
Though his overall 2013 performance hasn't reached those depths quite yet, the Detroit Tigers are hoping their ace can turn things around as they try to hold on to a slim AL Central lead.
Verlander (10-8, 3.99 ERA) agreed to a five-year extension in March that will pay him $28 million per season from 2015-19. He won the AL MVP and Cy Young Award in 2011 before helping Detroit reach the World Series in October, going 17-8 with a 2.64 ERA in 2012.
The Tigers (60-45) still sit atop the Central despite Verlander's rough stretch over the last couple of months. After going 4-3 with a 1.93 ERA through his first eight starts, he's 6-5 with a 5.21 ERA in 14 outings since May 16.
Verlander gave up seven runs and 11 hits in six innings of a 7-4 loss to the Chicago White Sox on Thursday, and he's in danger of his ERA climbing above 4.00 for the first time since it was 4.50 following the 2011 season opener.
The right-hander, who hasn't had this tough of a season since going 11-17 with a career-worst 4.84 ERA five years ago, chose to take the positives out of his latest start.
"As funny as it sounds, (Thursday) was a step in the right direction," said Verlander, who struck out 11 in eight innings of an 8-3 win over the Nationals in his only start against them June 16, 2010. "I thought my stuff was the best it's been all year. It was just a little erratic."
Gonzalez (7-3, 2.97) has had his better stuff for quite some time, as he's 4-0 with a 2.06 ERA in 10 starts since falling to Baltimore on May 27. He struck out 11 for the second straight start - matching a season best - while allowing three runs in 5 2-3 innings before Bryce Harper 's walkoff homer gave Washington a 9-7 win over Pittsburgh on Thursday.
"It's one of those weird lines," Gonzalez said. "You look at it and find out that at the end I had 11 strikeouts. I kid you not, it felt like I had six."
The Nationals (52-55) have won six of Gonzalez's last seven starts. The left-hander gave up one run in seven innings to beat the Tigers 5-3 the last time he faced them Sept. 17, 2011, while with Oakland.
He'll look to help Washington split this two-game interleague series with Detroit, which leads second-place Cleveland by 2 1/2 games and has won eight of nine to move a season-best 15 games above .500.
Detroit has won six of the seven all-time meetings with the Washington franchise at Comerica Park.
It's unclear if Miguel Cabrera will play after being listed as day to day with an abdominal strain, according to the team's official website. The injury sidelined him for four games last week, and he appeared to aggravate the problem Tuesday. He left the game in the eighth inning.
If Cabrera can't go, it's possible Jose Iglesias could start at third base in his place in his Tigers debut. Iglesias was acquired from Boston on Tuesday in the three-team trade involving Jake Peavy and could be Detroit's shortstop of the future, maybe sooner rather than later depending on what happens to current starter Jhonny Peralta for his part in MLB's ongoing drug investigation.
|July 24, 2013||Ian Desmond||Day-to-Day||Blister|
|July 24, 2013||Bryce Harper||Day-to-Day||Left knee soreness|
|July 04, 2013||Ross Detwiler||15-Day DL||Lower back strain|
|June 23, 2013||Dan Haren||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|June 23, 2013||Jayson Werth||Day-to-Day||Left game - left groin strain|
|June 23, 2013||Dan Haren||15-Day DL||Right shoulder inflammation|
|July 25, 2013||Torii Hunter||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore left Achilles|
|July 23, 2013||Miguel Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Strained left hip flexor|
|July 14, 2013||Justin Verlander||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right quadriceps tightness|
|July 07, 2013||Darin Downs||15-Day DL||Left rotator cuff tendinitis|
|July 04, 2013||Omar Infante||15-Day DL||Sprained left ankle|
|July 03, 2013||Omar Infante||Day-to-Day||Left game - left shin|
DETROIT (AP) -- The Detroit Tigers are rolling, reaching 16 games over .500 for the first time this year, and yet they couldn't truly celebrate their 11-1 rout of the Washington Nationals on Wednesday.
Miguel Cabrera was out of the lineup, and Jhonny Peralta was possibly in it for the last time for a long time.
Alex Avila and Torii Hunter hit homers in a five-run second inning and Detroit scored five more runs in the fourth inning, getting a relatively strong outing from Justin Verlander after his shaky start.
The AL Central-leading Tigers took the two-game series, have won five straight and nine of 10. Detroit's superstar, though, is ailing again and its All-Star shortstop faces a possible suspension.
"I feel better," Cabrera said after missing the game with a strained lower abdomen. "Hopefully, we can get out of way this quick and try to be 100 percent Friday."
After a day off Thursday, the Tigers open a series against the Chicago White Sox and might not have Peralta in the lineup. He doubled in a game that might be his last until late September because he's among the players linked to the Biogenesis case.
Peralta said he shouldn't be on the dubious list.
"It's wrong," he said. "But whatever happens, I need to fight and try to move on."
Before and after the game, Peralta insisted he did not know whether Major League Baseball planned to suspend him.
"I don't feel nervous," he said. "But yeah, I worry a little bit because I want to play every day here, and I love to be here in Detroit."
If Peralta is suspended 50 games for first offense under baseball's drug program, he would lose $1,639,344 of his $6 million salary. Barring rescheduled games, he would not be eligible to play until Sept. 24, leaving him with just five games of the regular season. He would be eligible Sept. 14 for an injury rehab assignment - if any of Detroit's minor league teams remain in their playoffs.
Peralta is batting .307 with 10 homers, 53 RBIs and a team-high 29 RBIs in 101 of the team's 106 games.
"He's very important to this team," Verlander said. "He's obviously had an All-Star-caliber season, and he's gone out there and played just about every game at shortstop.
"You lose a guy like that, that's tough. But I can't comment on how it would go to lose him because I don't know what the possibilities are."
Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski said the team protected itself against a possible suspension by acquiring slick-fielding infielder Jose Iglesias from Boston in a three-team trade Tuesday night.
"If it were a 15-day thing, like a typical injury, I think we could have comfortably dealt with it with the players we already have," Dombrowski said. "But when you start to talk about 50 days and a possible playoff run, we feel better going ahead with Jose."
Verlander (11-8) shook off a rough start by giving up only one run, four hits and a season-high matching five walks while striking out six over six innings.
"My stuff was pretty good, but I was obviously erratic," he said.
Gio Gonzalez (7-4) gave up 10 runs - one short of his career high - and 11 hits - the most of his career - over 3 1-3 innings. He entered the game with 4-0 record and a 2.06 ERA in his 10 starts, in which he allowed three or fewer runs, since his last loss on May 27.
"In three months, you're going to run into a hiccup," Gonzalez said. "It just happened to be against a good team."
Nationals manager Davey Johnson said Bryce Harper didn't finish the game because of a hip spasm.
"I think he's going to be all right," Johnson said.
Harper, though, was fuming about the fortunes of the Nationals, who have lost nine of 13 games since the All-Star break to create a double-digit deficit behind the NL East-leading Atlanta Braves .
"You got to play with heart," Harper said. "You got to play as a family. Everybody's got to want it, starting with the manager on down - everybody. Everybody wants to win this and keep going. We need to get going and play better, hit better, have better ABs in certain situations and pitch better also. It's just something we need to do.
"We play the Braves nine games. This ain't over. I really don't think it's over. We just got to keep going, keep grinding and turn into the family that we were last year."
NOTES: Nationals pitching coach Steve McCatty , a Detroit native, has been released from a hospital after being treated for an irregular heartbeat and high blood pressure and is expected to rejoin the team Monday. ... Hunter was 4-for-5 with two doubles, two runs and three RBIs. ... Nationals OF Jayson Werth had a sacrifice fly in the first, driving in the only run for his team.