Verlander grabs 10th win, Tigers beat Astros

DETROIT (AP) -- Justin Verlander's latest sensational performance made him the first rookie in four years to have at least 10 wins before the All-Star break.

Verlander pitched three-hit ball for eight innings and the surging Detroit Tigers took advantage of defensive miscues by the Houston Astros in a 5-0 victory Wednesday. Verlander (10-4) struck out seven and walked none, winning his third straight start.

"This was probably my best," said Verlander, who has lost only one of his last 10 outings. "I felt really good and had everything working well. I can't complain."

He joined Kazuhisa Ishii, who won 11 games for the Los Angeles Dodgers before the 2002 All-Star Game, as the only major-league rookies to get off to such strong starts in the past four years.

"When you have stuff like that, it's easy to have savvy and confidence," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.

Detroit's hard-throwing right-hander wanted to pitch the ninth for a shot at his second shutout, but Leyland wasn't interested.

"We don't worry about that stuff anymore," he said.

The Tigers have won six straight and 17 of their last 20 games, maintaining the best record in baseball. Detroit swept a six-game homestand against Houston and the St. Louis Cardinals, the past two NL champions.

"That probably won't happen again, probably never," Leyland added.

Detroit's seven-game winning streak at home is the longest in the seven-season history of Comerica Park.

Houston has lost six of seven, its worst slump since dropping six in a row from May 5-10, and has not scored in its last 20 innings.

"We are playing some miserable baseball right now," manager Phil Garner said.

Andy Pettitte (6-9) yielded five runs -- two earned -- in 6 1/3 innings for Houston. He gave up 10 hits and three walks, one of which was intentional, and struck out three.

"We had a couple of errors, but that's part of the game," Pettitte said. "I had chances to get out of those innings, and I didn't make the pitches. In a game like this, you have to make
those pitches, so that's on me."

Detroit broke a scoreless tie with a run in the fourth and added two runs in both the sixth and seventh to go ahead 5-0.

In the fourth, Ivan Rodriguez singled and advanced to third on Magglio Ordonez's single. Houston shortstop Eric Bruntlett had a
chance to end the inning, but he bobbled a two-out grounder for an error, allowing Rodriguez to score.

Houston second baseman Chris Burke dropped a throw for an error, turning a probable double play into a two-run sixth inning. Craig Monroe's bunt single, which surprised the Astros, drove in a run, and Brandon Inge's RBI single made it 3-0.

"I was so tickled for Craig because we worked on that in spring training," Leyland said.

After an intentional walk in the seventh, Pettitte walked Marcus Thames with the bases loaded, forcing in another run. The left-hander was replaced by Brad Lidge, whose first delivery was a wild pitch that allowed Rodriguez to score his second run of the game.

It was just the latest example of things going right for the Tigers, whose 54-25 record is one game behind the 79-game mark of the 1984 World Series champions and the Ty Cobb-led 1911 team in franchise history.

"I think they're special, but that doesn't mean we have something special going," Leyland said.

Game notes
Garner was suspended one game by the commissioner's office and fined an undisclosed amount for his behavior during Monday night's loss in Detroit. Garner rushed onto the field to argue with an umpire, threw his cap to the ground and was ejected. When he returned to the bench, he tossed a chair out of the dugout. Garner plans to appeal the suspension. ... Ordonez left in the fourth inning because of a bruised left shin. X-rays were negative and he is day to day. ... Tigers DH Dmitri Young, who pleaded no contest Tuesday to a domestic violence charge in Michigan, is headed to Florida for a workout and conditioning program. ... Leyland said the Pittsburgh Pirates, who gave him his major-league managing start, called him about their opening after last season, but he was already en route to interview in Detroit. The Tigers play a weekend series at Pittsburgh after having a day off Thursday.