Although he's no longer consistently a dominant force for the Detroit Tigers, Justin Verlander has rediscovered that ace form over his last two starts.
Now feeling great after shaking off his early struggles, the right-hander hopes to continue an outstanding run against the visiting Minnesota Twins on Wednesday when the hot-hitting Tigers chase their sixth straight win in the season series.
Verlander (2-4, 4.71 ERA) had a tough time finding a rhythm early, going 2-3 with a 6.49 ERA through his first six starts. However, he's turned things around in his last two despite going up against a pair of prolific offensive clubs.
After allowing three hits and striking out nine over seven shutout innings in an 8-3 home loss to Texas on May 8, Verlander gave up one run and four hits with eight strikeouts over eight innings in a 1-0 loss at Baltimore on Friday.
"(I'm) just trying to maintain that feel, execute all my pitches, throw strikes when I need to," the veteran told the league's official website. "That's what I've been working towards, that's what I talk about. That's usually why it takes me a little bit to get rolling early in the season. I'm not quite as polished as I need to be. The last couple of (starts) I've turned the corner, felt great."
Verlander hopes keep the good feeling going and extend a stellar run against the Twins (10-28). He's 10-1 with a 2.26 ERA with 110 strikeouts in his last 10 meetings.
Joe Mauer, however, has given the six-time All-Star trouble with a .353 average, three home runs and 10 RBIs in 68 at-bats. Kurt Suzuki is hitting .306 in 36 at-bats in the matchup, but Trevor Plouffe is 7 for 34 (.206) with nine strikeouts.
Miguel Sano hit his seventh home run and Mauer added his second in Tuesday's 7-2 loss in the second of this three-game series at Comerica Park. Sano has been a bright spot, going 7 for 23 with four homers and six RBIs over his last six.
Minnesota right-hander Ricky Nolasco (1-1, 4.87) posted a 3.25 ERA over his first four starts before falling on tougher times with a 7.56 mark in his last three.
Nolasco has had mixed results against the Tigers, going 2-1 with a 4.32 ERA in six matchups. He settled for a no-decision against them May 1 when he was tagged for five runs and eight hits over 5 2/3 innings in a 6-5 loss at Target Field.
Victor Martinez and Justin Upton both went 2 for 3 off him and Nick Castellanos hit a three-run homer. Jose Iglesias (4 for 5), Cameron Maybin (4 for 5), Mike Aviles (8 for 14) and Martinez (7 for 14) also have thrived in their matchups.
Detroit (18-21), which will get manager Brad Ausmus back from a one-game suspension after getting ejected in Monday's 10-8 win, has averaged 7.7 runs while batting .346 with eight home runs during its three-game winning streak.
"We felt like it was coming," left fielder Justin Upton said. "We've been grinding for the last month-and-a-half and we're just starting to see results."
J.D. Martinez and Ian Kinsler hit back-to-back home runs in a seven-run seventh inning Tuesday. Martinez is 7 for 12 with three homers and four RBIs and Kinsler is 6 for 13 with three long balls and five RBIs over the past three games.