DETROIT (AP) — Justin Verlander is struggling so much he’s taking consolation in pitching long enough to give the bullpen a rest.
Hisashi Iwakuma extended his scoreless innings streak on the road to 25 and Justin Smoak homered off Verlander to help Seattle Mariners beat the Detroit Tigers 8-0 on Wednesday night.
Verlander (13-12) allowed three runs, four hits, walked three and struck out six over seven innings.
“You never want to lose, but you can take away a little bit of solace, going seven and not having to wear out your bullpen,” he said.
The AL Central-leading Tigers had won three straight and six of seven to close in on their third straight title, but they have not eliminated the Cleveland Indians from contention in the division.
Verlander, the 2011 MVP and Cy Young Award winner, earned a victory in his previous start to end a six-game winless streak. He has won consecutive games only once — July 31 and Aug. 6 — since winning four straight starts in late May and early June.
“The stuff has been getting better almost every time out,” Verlander said. “How I’m going to be in the postseason, we’ll see. You never want to say anything clinched until it is.”
In the fourth inning, Iwakuma got out of a bases-loaded jam for the second time in the game at Detroit.
“We had a shot,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “But that’s what good pitchers do, they don’t let you capitalize.
“That’s why he’s one of the best.”
Iwakuma (13-6) matched his career high going eight innings, giving up just four hits and one unintentional walk. His 25-inning scoreless streak on the road matches a franchise record.
Iwakuma, who became an All-Star this year in his second season, joined Randy Johnson (1994) and Brian Holman (1989) as Mariners who have thrown 25 straight scoreless innings on the road.
Verlander gave up walks to leadoff hitters in the first two innings, and the second time it led to him giving up two runs.
Smoak got a free pass in the second and scored on Michael Saunders’ double deep into the left-center gap. Nick Franklin followed with an RBI single to give Seattle a 2-0 lead.
“The walks hurt me,” Verlander said. “It seemed like every inning, especially the first four, I was very erratic with the first batter of the inning.”
Verlander seemed to finally find a groove in the fourth inning when he retired the side in order, but Smoak’s solo shot — his 17th homer — gave Seattle a 3-0 lead in the sixth.
Verlander struck out two in the seventh, ending his 124-pitch outing.
Leyland gave Phil Coke a chance to pitch in the eighth and he allowed four runs — three earned — on three hits and one unintentional walk. He retired just two batters before being replaced.
“Phil’s just not making good enough pitches to get big league hitters out right now,” Leyland said. “He’s hanging his breaking ball, he’s throwing the ball in the middle of the plate.”
Seattle’s Danny Farquhar pitched the ninth and faced Alex Avila, a high school teammate in Florida, and struck him out to end the game.
NOTES: The Tigers gave OF Torii Hunter a scheduled day off and rested 2B Omar Infante. … Tigers RHP Bruce Rondon, who hasn’t pitched in a game since Sept. 2 because of an elbow injury, threw from 120 feet on Wednesday and the team hopes he can throw a bullpen session by the end of the week. … The Tigers announced Larry Parrish will be retained to manage the Triple-A Toledo next year. … Detroit’s Doug Fister (12-9) will start against Seattle’s James Paxton (2-0) in the series finale Thursday, then the Tigers will open their home series against the Chicago White Sox on Friday night when Max Scherzer will make his fifth straight start seeking his 20th win.
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