It wasn't easy. It never is against the 2011 American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner, who was in full lockdown mode for much of the matinee. And it was even tougher after the Mariners played 14 innings over four hours and 37 minutes the night before, and then had to arrive at the ballpark for a 12:40 p.m. first pitch.
But Seattle, powered by starter Hisashi Iwakuma's continuing brilliance -- he threw six scoreless innings -- and solid work by relievers Carter Capps (two shutout frames for his first Major League win) and closer Tom Wilhelmsen (a perfect ninth for his sixth save of the season), found a way.
"We fought our butts off last night and we did it against a great pitcher [today]," Wilhelmsen said. "Just right time, right place."
There were various elements to this day's alignment of the stars in Verlander's second defeat of the season and first against the Mariners since April 27, 2011.
With two outs in the seventh and Verlander having struck out four Mariners in succession and hitting 97 mph on his fastball consistently, Robert Andino singled to left and pinch-hitter Kyle Seager doubled into the left-field corner on a first-pitch fastball to score the game's first run. The Safeco crowd was stirred and Endy Chavez capitalized, punching a single to left and watching as Seager steamed around third and barely touched home plate in front of Tigers catcher Alex Avila's tag.
"It was a bad pitch," Verlander said. "Obviously, I'm not taking away credit from him. … But I didn't execute it either. It was belt-high on the outer half. For what he was trying to do right there, it was a perfect pitch. Not for what I was trying to do."
Regardless, it was something the Mariners needed. Badly. Wilhelmsen shut the Tigers down in the ninth with the help of some impressive defense. Seager had to range to his right and get down on the infield dirt to smother the inning-opening ground ball by reigning Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, and the next batter, slugger Prince Fielder, was robbed of possible extra bases when his sinking blooper to shallow right-center field was snagged by a diving Chavez. It was a play sure to be replayed numerous times on the highlight shows.
"For sure," said a smiling Chavez. "Sure, I'm gonna watch."
Meanwhile, while Verlander did what Verlander often does, recording a season-high 12 strikeouts in his seven innings, Iwakuma matched him in his own way. Iwakuma threw only 70 pitches in his six innings, getting eight groundouts and two double plays, before departing in favor of Capps, who struck out three in his two innings.
Iwakuma was pulled from the game because of a lingering blister on the left side of the middle finger on his right hand. He said he's been dealing with it since his last start of Spring Training and that it hasn't gotten better or worse. It's a huge concern for the Mariners, who have seen the Japanese right-hander turn into one of the best starters in the American League since the second half of last year.
After Thursday's six shutout innings, Iwakuma had a season ERA of 1.69 and an opposing batting average of .129. Since moving into the starting rotation last July 2, Iwakuma has gone 10-4 with a 2.44 ERA.
"He pitched very well," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He spots the ball. His hits per innings pitched are fantastic. He's good. He just locates the ball. He can get a little extra when he wants to. He locates it very well, changes speed, throws this into that count, that into this count. He was very impressive."
Now the Mariners will hope he stays healthy.
Iwakuma said he should be "good to go" for his next start, and Mariners manager Eric Wedge said the team is being vigilant in treating the finger in between starts and making sure he gets his work in without aggravating it too much.
"It is what it is," Iwakuma said through interpreter Antony Suzuki. "There's nothing much we can do about it. Just keeping the team in the ballgame is all I can do and just dealing with the situation is all I have to think about right now.
"I need to continue what I'm doing right now and run with it, because I'm having a good start and I'll do anything to help the team. That's the priority."
And the priority for the Mariners right now is finding ways to win while they hope their bats warm up. The team left the three-series homestand against Houston, Texas and Detroit with a 4-6 record and improved to 7-10 overall despite the fact that several of the hitters they're counting on to be major run producers were below the Mendoza Line.
"Our guys were game-on," Wedge said. "It was a short night and they came back today and both teams were playing good, hard baseball.
"When you're not pounding the ball like I know we're capable of doing and will do, you've got to take advantage of any opportunity, because there may not be another one coming around."