Verlander settles in, nets quality start in return

Rough start to night turns around as Tigers righty pitches into seventh inning

Verlander settles in, nets quality start in return

DETROIT -- Despite his early struggles, Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander cobbled together a quality outing Tuesday night after missing a start due to back stiffness.

Verlander labored through a 27-pitch first inning against the Pirates, then allowed a run in the second and two in the third. But, despite tossing just one clean frame, he lasted into the seventh during Detroit's 5-4, 14-inning loss at Comerica Park.

Verlander's line -- three runs (two earned) on six hits in six-plus frames -- masks just how much he labored early. Verlander, who hadn't pitched since feeling discomfort in his back mid-game on June 19, faced six batters each in the first, second and third innings Tuesday. He ultimately walked five batters, hit two more and struck out three.

"I had some rust to knock off, evidently," Verlander said. "That many walks is never a good thing.

"... I was just missing on a lot of pitches. Those pitches, if I'm in a groove, are just hitting the corner and aren't just off. Obviously, that was a big swinging point."

Despite experiencing some stiffness during warmups, Verlander said he didn't have any significant issues with his back as he tossed 103 pitches with a fastball that touched 96 mph.

"I'd be lying to you if I said it wasn't in the back of my mind a little bit, hoping that it wasn't going to spasm up on me again," Verlander said. "It was present, but it wasn't impeding me in any way."

Though Verlander admitted he hurt himself with poor command, Detroit's defense didn't do its starter any favors in the third. When Francisco Cervelli hit a slow chopper to second base, Miguel Cabrera couldn't catch Ian Kinsler's throw cleanly, allowing a run to score and advancing Pedro Alvarez to third.

Cervelli's productive grounder

In the fourth inning, Verlander worked around a pair of two-out baserunners. He hit Alvarez to lead off the fifth, but later induced a double play. Then he recorded his only 1-2-3 frame in the sixth.

"I thought Ver was much better his last three innings than he was his first three," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "I thought he was a little too fine with his pitches early, and started attacking hitters later. But overall, a good outing."

Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByAZuniga. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.