Tigers rock Nationals for sweep

DETROIT — It was one of those days.

Justin Verlander knew it only three batters in.

He fell behind Denard Span, 3-0. He walked Span. He allowed a hit to Bryce Harper. He threw a wild pitch. He got ahead of Ryan Zimmerman, fell behind, walked him and suddenly, the bases were loaded.

There was nobody out. It was the first inning.

“You gotta work with what you got that given day,” Verlander said. “It was just going to be one of those days where I had to grind and make pitches when I had to.”

His slider was in the dirt and his fastball was too high and it drew pitching coach Jeff Jones out of the dugout to remind the Tigers’ right-hander that he was swinging his left leg out during his delivery and it was throwing him off.

“When you’re walking guys, it’s a matter of not letting them score,” Verlander said.

He allowed a sacrifice fly to Jayson Werth. Then he allowed nothing more.

Verlander snapped a two-game slide today and the Tigers swept a two-game set, socking the Washington Nationals, 11-1, at Comerica Park.

“All of a sudden you go down 2-3 runs and you put your team behind the 8-ball,” Verlander said. “You give up one run there and guys are like, ‘OK, we’re still in this thing’.”

His counterpart knows the feeling.

Twice, the Tigers offense exploded on Nationals lefty Gio Gonzalez, tagging him for five runs in both the second and fourth innings.

In the second, Ramon Santiago doubled home two runs, Alex Avila hit a two-run home run and Torii Hunter a solo shot. In the fourth, the top of the Tigers’ order strung together five hits and chased Gonzalez.

“If you’ve beat (Stephen) Strasburg and Gonzalez, you’ve done something,” manager Jim Leyland said. “I thought they had really good at-bats. I thought (hitting coach Lloyd McClendon) gave them good advice and made sure they were grinding their at-bats out.”

None more so than Hunter, who went 4-for-5 and fell a hit short of the cycle for the second time this year. His double down the right field line in the seventh could have been stretched into a triple but third base coach Tom Brookens held Alex Avila up at third.

“I would’ve pushed Avila off the bag,” Hunter joked.

Avila homered for the second straight game and pushed his average above .200 for the first time since May 10.

From his vantage point, Verlander’s win was a step in the right direction.

“His stuff is there, it’s good,” Avila said. “For him, it’s just a matter of having command of it.”

Verlander pitched six innings, allowing one run on four hits. He struck out six, walked five and more importantly, improved to 11-8 on the season.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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