ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) - Justin Verlander had his second poor outing in three starts. Miguel Cabrera wasn't around for the finish because of a fourth-inning ejection. Prince Fielder was robbed of a home run by Angels rookie sensation Mike Trout to end the game.
But the worst thing about Saturday night's 6-1 loss was that it dropped the Tigers two games behind the Chicago White Sox in the AL Central and 4 1-2 games out in the race for the two wild-card spots.
Verlander (13-8) gave up six runs and nine hits and struck out two in six innings. The five-time All-Star is 0-3 in his last five road starts, including a 9-8 loss against Kansas City in which he matched a career worst by allowing eight earned runs over 5 2-3 innings.
``It wasn't pretty,'' Verlander said. ``They were charging the heater early. First batter of the game I made a mistake right down the middle to a guy who is having a fantastic year.'
That would be Trout, who drove Verlander's third pitch into the second tier of the double-decker bullpen in left field where the Tigers' relievers sat. The home run triggered a four-run inning against the reigning AL MVP and Cy Young winner, who also gave up a two-run double by Howie Kendrick and an RBI double by Vernon Wells before his 29-pitch adventure was finally over.
It was the eighth time Verlander has given up a homer to the first batter he faced and the fourth time this season.
``Our big guy just wasn't good tonight. You can't camouflage it and you can't hide it,' manager Jim Leyland said. ``Right off the bat, he just wasn't his night. A lot of teams plan on going right after him early. Tonight they just ambushed him, and it worked.
``It was a little bit of a letdown right in the first there with the four spot, and that is something we can't really let happen,' Leyland added. ``I don't mean we didn't battle the rest of the way. We did, but it took a little air out of our sail.'
Trout put the finishing touches on the Angels' 10th victory in 11 games by pulling back Fielder's bid for his 26th homer on a 3-2 pitch from Garrett Richards.
The Angels' defense also came up big in the first, when Torii Hunter caught Cabrera's hit-and-run flyball on the warning track in right field and doubled up Omar Infante at first base. Infante had to re-touch second base and was tagged out by Kendrys Morales, who took Hunter's one-hop throw about 10 feet off the bag and dived at the runner.
In the sixth, the Tigers' bid to get back in the game was denied by left fielder Vernon Wells, who raced toward the alley and flagged down Infante's drive with runners at first and second.
``They're a very good defensive team,' Leyland said. ``The last play of the game was just a great play, but I thought Vernon Wells made two great plays as well. We just weren't able to get one to drop on the grass in the outfield.'
Trout took over the AL batting race by a point over Cabrera, who was ejected along with third base coach Gene Lamont by umpire Tim Timmons for arguing balls and strikes. Timmons took over behind the plate for crew chief Jeff Kellogg, who was struck flush on the mask by a foul tip off Hunter's bat in the second inning.
``What he said was wrong,' Leyland said of Cabrera, ``But sometimes you should look the other way whether you're the manager, the player or the umpire. Had the umpire not been looking at him at the time, it probably wouldn't have happened. Miggy just got caught in the cookie jar because he said something that was offensive.'
The Angels are a season-high 13 games over .500 at 76-63 with 23 games left and are 2 1-2 games ahead of Detroit in the wild-card picture. The fewest wins they ever made it to the postseason with were the 92 they had in 2004, when they won the first of five AL West titles after Mike Scioscia became manager in 2000. They won the World Series in 2002 as a wild card after winning 99 games.
``We still have a couple weeks that we have to continue to play like this in order to get where we want to get,' winning pitcher C.J. Wilson said. ``It's like, Texas isn't slowing down, and neither are any of these other teams that we're chasing. We're conscious of that, so we have to really try to make the most out of each day.'
Wilson (12-9) won his third straight start, allowing an unearned run and four hits in 7 2-3 innings with six strikeouts and two walks. It was the first time the All-Star left-hander pitched at least seven innings in 11 starts since July 13. His first three-game winning streak since last September began after a stretch of 11 consecutive outings in which he was 0-5.
NOTES: Verlander threw 97 pitches, ending his streak of 80 consecutive starts with at least 100. ... Infante drove in the Tigers' only run against Wilson in the fourth with an RBI single, his 1,000th career hit. His first was on Sept. 7, 2002, a go-ahead RBI single against Mike Mussina in the eighth inning of a 2-1 Tigers win at Yankee Stadium. ... Verlander's previous start against the Angels was in Detroit on July 31, 2001, when Macier Izturis broke up his bid for a third no-hitter with a two-out single in the eighth inning. ... Izturis left the game in the fourth inning for a pinch-hitter because of tightness in his ribcage. He has no RBIs in 21 at_bats against the Tigers this season. ... Trout's 26th homer tied the Angels' season record for leadoff batters, which was set by Brian Downing in 1982 and equaled by Tony Phillips in 1995.
The Associated Press News Service
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