Though the analogy is commonly used for March, the theme was applicable for Justin Verlander and the month of May. For Verlander, the month came in like a lion, turned into a lamb and went out like a lion.
Verlander turned in seven strong innings, and the Detroit Tigers pounded out three key home runs to help in their 6-3 defeat of the Seattle Mariners.
Though Hisashi Iwakuma had been strong against the Central Division, it didn't take the Tigers long to figure him out. Detroit strung together a pair of singles in the first from Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez, and though they didn't score, the tone had been set.
Cabrera then left the yard in the third inning with Torii Hunter on base, allowing Detroit to jump out to a 2-0 lead. Though Verlander was pitching well, Seattle answered back quick with a Kyle Seager two run shot which tied the score.
The very next inning, the American League and arguably baseball's hottest hitter, Victor Martinez, simply blasted off. Ian Kinsler and Cabrera had reached base around outs, and Martinez put together a clutch two out at bat to untie the score. Detroit led by a commanding 5-2 margin.
Rajai Davis added some insurance in the top of the seventh with a solo home run of his own, and Verlander cruised along with seven strikeouts, only being lifted in the eighth for Ian Krol. The Mariners got another run on a Michael Saunders double, but after that, their scoring was done.
Joba Chamberlain provided a breather for usual closer Joe Nathan, getting two strikeouts in the ninth to collect his second save of the year and put a capper on Verlander's beauty start.
Top Tiger: Justin Verlander. Considering the shakiness of his other starts, it's hard not to give Verlander the nod, given he was in command and struck out seven while only walking one. Other than the mistake home run, Verlander was in control and looked like he was feeling like himself again on the mound, which was good news.
Bungling Bengal: Alex Avila. Yes, Avila handles the pitching staff phenomenally and does provide some sneaky power and clutch hitting at times, but with another 0-3 night with one strikeout, he's now hitting .211, and is threatening to fall below the .200 mark again. It's not a problem because Detroit is winning and being carried by the bats at the top and middle of the order, but if things get tough for the offense, expect the pressure on Avila to ratchet up even more.
The Turning Point: Victor Martinez's clutch at-bat. For the second time in as many days, Martinez was the sole reason the Tigers won a game, putting together a wonderful at bat with two runners on, this time hitting an impressive home run to right field to clear the bases. Thursday, it was a seventh inning double. Martinez continues to rake in key spots, and after the home run, Seattle was deflated and the Tigers took off, making plays to win.
Stat Of The Game: 10, strikeouts by Detroit pitchers against Seattle in the series opener, when compared to just two walks. Against the Oakland Athletics, the Tigers found themselves in trouble at times with walks, hit batters and the like. A return to overpowering form was key for Detroit's staff to start the weekend on a positive note.
Quote To Note: "I think my rhythm was much better." —Justin Verlander. Long known as a tinkerer, Verlander made the needed adjustments to help his mechanics out, which led to Detroit's big win. For two previous starts, Verlander was hit around the yard, but Friday, he set the tone early and took care of business.
What's Next: Saturday night at 10:10 p.m. EST, the Tigers look for their third straight win as they take on Seattle's Chris Young (4-2) takes on Drew Smyly (2-3) who will also be looking to rebound after a bad start.
Max DeMara is the editor of @tigers_101. Follow the site there on Twitter, or like it on Facebook to connect with him.
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