DETROIT — Justin Verlander has been all too ordinary this season, and the Detroit ace is asking for a little patience.
J.J. Hardy and Adam Jones homered off Verlander on Tuesday night, and Manny Machado added a double and two sparkling plays at third base to lead the Baltimore Orioles to a 5-2 victory over the Tigers.
Verlander struggled a bit in May, and his ERA is now at 3.72 after this latest outing. He gave up five runs and seven hits in five innings, walked four and struck out five.
"It's been a battle so far, obviously. You've got that stretch of three or four starts where it was pretty frustrating," Verlander said. "I feel like I've been getting better and better and better. That's not necessarily going to work toward a perfect game. You're not going to get better every time. There's ups and downs and peaks and valleys."
Hardy hit his third homer off Verlander (8-5) this month, connecting for a two-run shot in the fourth inning, and Jones added a three-run drive in the fifth.
Zach Britton (1-1) allowed a run and five hits in 5 1-3 innings after being called up earlier in the day from the minors to make this start.
Four Baltimore relievers finished it off. Detroit put two on in the ninth for Miguel Cabrera, but the Triple Crown winner bounced into a game-ending double play on the first pitch from Jim Johnson, who got his 26th save in 30 chances.
Matt Tuiasosopo homered for the Tigers.
Machado hit his major league-leading 33rd double of the year and put on a nifty show with his glove, diving to his left to stop Brayan Pena's groundball in the third and diving in the other direction to make a play on Torii Hunter's grounder the following inning.
Hardy had three hits. He homered twice off Verlander in Baltimore's 10-3 loss to the Tigers on June 1, and he opened the scoring Tuesday with a drive to left in the fourth.
"Speechless," Hardy said. "I couldn't tell you how it happened or what happened. I feel like I just kind of blacked out – and I'm happy about it."
Machado led off the following inning with a double, and after Nick Markakis walked, Jones hit an opposite field homer to right to make it 5-0.
Machado also hit a single in the sixth, and he leads the major leagues with 101 hits. Cabrera has 98 after hitting two singles, but he was thrown out trying to stretch one of them into a double.
Tuiasosopo's homer in the fifth made it 5-1, and Cabrera came to bat later that inning with two on and two out, but he grounded out.
Verlander appeared to be back in form after throwing seven scoreless innings at Kansas City on June 12, but he was unable to build on that outing.
"Tonight was just one of those nights where two longballs hurt me," Verlander said. "Who knows what happens if I was able to execute those pitches a little bit better. I'm not saying I've regressed. It's just one of those games."
Britton, on the other hand, gave the Orioles exactly what they needed when he returned from the minors to make his second big league start of the year.
"He had some movement, changed some speeds," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Haven't seen a lot of him. The kid did a good job."
Darren O'Day got four outs in relief for Baltimore, but he also allowed an RBI single by Austin Jackson in the seventh. The Tigers then caught a break. With runners on first and second and nobody out, Hunter hit a grounder to Machado, who tried to tag Pena between second and third before throwing to second for a force. Pena was not called out, though, giving Detroit a first-and-third situation with one out.
Baltimore manager Buck Showalter came out to argue, but the point became moot when Cabrera and Prince Fielder both fouled out to end the inning.NOTES: Michigan basketball coach John Beilein threw out a ceremonial first pitch. ... Machado made an error in the eighth, but it didn't lead to any Detroit runs. ... The Tigers agreed to terms with four draft picks from this year: RHP Corey Knebel, CF Connor Harrell, SS Steven Negron and RHP Chase Edwards. ... Baltimore LHP Brian Matusz retired Fielder to end the seventh with the only pitch he threw. ... Detroit's Rick Porcello (4-3) takes the mound against Baltimore's Chris Tillman (7-2) on Wednesday.