Verlander smokes M's as Thames, Tigers clobber Weaver

" One sharp Tiger: Verlander is 28-14 all-time after recording a win in his 50th career start. In the past 50 years, only four pitchers have won more games in their first 50 starts (Mel Stottlemyre, Dwight Gooden, Cal Eldred and Roger Clemens).

" Streak-snappers: Magglio Ordonez homered, snapping a streak of 123 at-bats without a home run. Teammate Omar Infante also went yard, snapping his 58-game homer-less streak dating back to Sept. 7, 2006.

" Ouch-iro: Seattle got a major scare in the fifth Ichiro Suzuki was hit by a 96 mph fastball from Verlander. The team said the ball hit Suzuki in the muscle just above the knee and he has a right thigh contusion.

" Quotable: "I was able to get out of those [early] innings without giving
up a big inning, but I knew if I didn't keep my pitch count down I wasn't going to last very long.'' Verlander, on his outing

-- ESPN.com news services

Tigers 11, Mariners 7

SEATTLE (AP) -- Justin Verlander could already see the outcome. Unless Detroit's hard-throwing youngster started getting off the mound quicker than he had in the first two innings, his day would end early.

A six-pitch third inning certainly did the trick.

Verlander overcame some early stumbles to throw seven strong innings, Marcus Thames belted a three-run homer, and the Tigers earned a split of their four-game series in Seattle with a 11-7 win over the Mariners on Sunday.

"I was able to get out of those [early] innings without giving up a big inning, but I knew if I didn't keep my pitch count down I wasn't going to last very long," Verlander said.

So when Verlander (11-3) took the mound for the third inning, he decided to rely exclusively on his fastball, which reached 100 mph on Sunday. It took just six pitches to get out of the third and eight pitches in the fourth.

By then, Detroit had scored five runs off Seattle starter Jeff Weaver, capped by Thames two-out, three-run homer in the fourth that gave Detroit the lead for good at 5-2.

While Verlander was wining his 11th game, the focus for Seattle was on All-Star center fielder Ichiro Suzuki.

In the fifth inning, Suzuki was hit just above his right knee by a 96 mph fastball from Verlander.

Suzuki hobbled halfway to first, then stopped and was checked by trainer Rick Griffin and manager John McLaren. Suzuki gingerly made his way to the bag and remained in the game. But he continued to have a slight limp and was lifted moments later after slowly advancing to second on a wild pitch.

The team said the ball hit Suzuki in the muscle just above the knee and he has a right thigh contusion. X-rays were negative and Suzuki said he won't know his status until tomorrow.

"He got treatment, ice, and he was encouraged just talking to him in the training room," McLaren said. "We'll play it by ear tomorrow and see what happens."

Verlander didn't feel quite right with how he pitched during Tuesday's All-Star game in San Francisco, and had two short bullpen sessions in Seattle to try and solve the problem.

Despite his early struggles on Sunday -- giving up runs in each of the first two innings and throwing 47 pitches -- Verlander's feeling of awkwardness was gone.

"I felt like today I had good mechanics and good rhythm," Verlander said.

Verlander became the sixth American League pitcher to reach 11 wins. He allowed just four hits over his final five innings, and gave up eight hits total, four runs and struck out six. He won for the sixth time in his past seven starts.

"He was good but he tried to overthrow once in a while," Tigers' manager Jim Leyland said. "But he's nasty, and he's got really good stuff."

While Verlander felt good, Weaver certainly didn't.

Weaver, who beat the Tigers in the decisive Game 5 of last year's World Series while pitching for St. Louis, had been outstanding following a one-month stint on the disabled list in May. In his past six starts, Weaver was 2-0 with a 1.67 ERA.

But Weaver (2-7) reverted to his form from the first month of the season, when he was 0-6 with an 14.32 ERA.

Detroit scored five of its seven runs off Weaver with two outs. Thames had an RBI single in the third to score Curtis Granderson, then hit a 1-1 pitch over the hand-operated scoreboard in left field an inning later for his 11th homer of the season.

Detroit added three more in an unusual sixth inning that included three walks, three wild pitches and a steal of home by Gary Sheffield. With two outs, Carlos Guillen walked against Seattle reliever Brandon Morrow. Eric O'Flaherty then took over for Morrow and tried to pick off Guillen at first before throwing a pitch to Sean Casey.

When O'Flaherty threw to first, Sheffield immediately broke for home. The throw from first baseman Ben Broussard was high and wide of catcher Jamie Burke. It was Detroit's first steal of home since Matt Walbeck on April 11, 1997, against the Chicago White Sox.

"He's got such great instincts," Leyland said of Sheffield. "He see it. He smells things."

Omar Infante added a solo homer in the seventh, his first of the season and first since Sept. 7, 2006, against Minnesota. Magglio Ordonez added a two-run shot in the eighth, his 14th of the season and snapped an 0-for-11 skid.

Seattle scored three times in the ninth off reliever Zach Minor. Raul Ibanez had a sacrifice fly to score Willie Bloomquist and Jose Guillen hit a two-run homer, his 12th of the season.

Game notes
Sunday was the eighth anniversary of the opening of Safeco Field. ... Jeff Weaver and his brother, L.A. Angels' starter Jered Weaver, both started on Sunday, the first time the brothers have pitched on the same day. ... Infante broke an 0-for-21 slump with a single in the sixth. ... Detroit had a season-high five stolen bases.