OAKLAND, Calif. -- Even with a rested bullpen available, Detroit manager Jim Leyland didn't hesitate letting Justin Verlander pitch the ninth inning.
The way Leyland saw it, there was no other option.Verlander pitched a four-hitter to win his fourth straight start, late lineup addition Casper Wells drove in two runs and the Tigers beat the Oakland Athletics 5-1 on Wednesday night, spoiling Dallas Braden's first appearance at home since throwing the majors first perfect game this season."He deserved to be out there in the ninth inning because I thought he was our best choice there, he was still sharp," Leyland explained of his decision to leave closer Jose Valverde in the bullpen. "If he got in any trouble at all we had Valverde ready to go but he was able to close this one down."Verlander struck out five and walked one while tossing his first complete game of the season. Detroit's ace, who struggled over the first month of the season, retired 14 of 15 batters during one stretch and carried a shutout into the eighth inning before settling for the easy win.Since beginning the season 1-2 with a 5.53 ERA, Verlander has been stellar over the past month while winning four straight starts for the first time since July 2008. He is 4-1 with a 1.26 ERA over his last five starts, with his last three wins coming after Detroit losses."The biggest key for me is controlling my fastball and I was able to do that tonight to both sides of the plate," Verlander said. "That's where it starts and ends for me. If I'm able to do that usually I'm going to have a pretty good game."Braden was almost as impressive until leaving with flu-like symptoms after giving up a leadoff home run to Brandon Inge in the seventh followed by a single to Gerald Laird.That spoiled what was already a big day for Braden, who was making his first start at the Oakland Coliseum since his perfect game against Tampa Bay on Mother's Day. The gem turned the A's lefty into an instant star, and he even made an appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman, delivering the Top 10 List.The honors kept coming when Braden returned home, too. Before the game against Detroit, he was honored by Oakland mayor Ron Dellums, who proclaimed this Friday as 'Dallas Braden Day.'For most of the night Braden, who gave up four earned runs in a 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Angels in his most recent start, didn't disappoint the 19,284 fans who cheered his every pitch. He pitched out of jams in the first three innings and carried a shutout into the seventh before Inge led off with his solo homer to left-center.One batter later, after Laird reached on an infield single that Braden (4-4) failed to field cleanly, the A's pitcher -- who has been ill in recent days -- called it a night. He met briefly on the mound with manager Bob Geren and trainer Steve Sayles before being replaced by reliever Michael Wuertz."I don't feel too hot," said Braden, who received an IV after being taken out. "It's something that's lingering from before my start in Anaheim. I thought it was the flu and I'd be done with it. I feel beat up. I feel like I just went 12 rounds."For Detroit, it was the perfect start to a seven-game road trip and allowed the Tigers to pull within a game of first-place Minnesota in the AL Central.Verlander (5-2) -- who last pitched a complete game on July 24, 2009 -- kept the A's offense quiet while Detroit's lineup waited patiently until scoring four times in the seventh. Most of the damage came against Wuertz, who carried a 17-inning scoreless streak into the game before melting down after replacing Braden.The A's managed only four singles off Verlander after piling up 31 hits while sweeping a two-game series from Seattle."Those guys battled and fouled off some good pitches," Verlander said. "But controlling my fastball allows me to make pitches even when I'm behind in the count and just allows me to be comfortable out there."The Tigers, coming off a 6-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox, scored twice against Wuertz to break the game open then added another run off Cedrick Bowers in the eighth.Wells, a late addition to Detroit's lineup when right fielder Magglio Ordonez was scratched due to a sore right heel, had the biggest blow with a two-run double off Wuertz. He also singled off Braden in the third for his first major league hit.Wuertz retired the first two batters he faced but gave up an RBI single to Austin Jackson before Wells' big hit.
Ordonez told reporters in the Tigers clubhouse that he is day to day. ... Braden had thrown consecutive complete games before his night against Detroit ended early. ... Jackson has hit safely in 19 of 20 road games this season.