DETROIT -- Justin Verlander was encouraged by his latest outing, even though he lasted only five innings.
The right-hander struck out eight Saturday and combined with four Detroit Tigers relievers on a two-hitter in a 4-3 victory over the Texas Rangers.
• The Rangers lost back-to-back games following their 3-0 start. Texas has scored five runs in its last two games after scoring 29 runs in its first three games.
• Justin Verlander allowed just two hits and struck out eight, but also walked four in five innings.
• Four Tiger relievers combined to pitch four hitless innings, capped by Fernando Rodney striking out the side in the ninth to pick up his first save of the season.
• Miguel Cabrera went hitless (0-4) for the first time this season.
• Detroit has now won three of four after a 0-2 start.
-- ESPN Stats & Information
"I felt very good out there today," Verlander said. "If I throw the ball like that all season, I'll be very successful."Placido Polanco hit a tiebreaking double, Nate Robertson (1-0) earned the win with two shutout innings of relief and Fernando Rodney struck out the side in the ninth for his first save. Detroit's bullpen didn't allow a baserunner in four innings of work.Verlander needed 97 pitches to get through five, but he and manager Jim Leyland were pleased with the performance. After giving up eight runs on opening day, Verlander allowed three on Saturday -- one earned. He yielded two hits and walked four.Texas scored two unearned runs in the fifth following errors by third baseman Brandon Inge and shortstop Adam Everett."I thought Verlander was outstanding today," Leyland said. "We extended that fifth inning on him, or he would have gotten into the sixth. I want to get to the point where we are getting seven innings from him on a consistent basis, and we're headed in that direction."Detroit's bullpen, considered a weakness this season, was dominant."Nate giving us those two innings in a close game is like a starter giving you five strong innings," Leyland said. "That was a tremendous performance from our bullpen."Rodney competed with Brandon Lyon for the closer's job in spring training and was happy to convert his first chance of the year."Right now, I feel like I did in 2006. I never felt that good the last two years with my arm problems," Rodney said. "This felt great, because I've worked really hard to get this back."Matt Harrison (0-1) took the loss, allowing four runs, nine hits and five walks in 5 2-3 innings."I was pleased with what I did today, but the walks are frustrating," he said. "I was able to keep it close, but I have to have better control."Hank Blalock homered and Josh Hamilton drove in two runs for the Rangers, who have lost seven straight at Comerica Park."We had opportunities all game, and we didn't take advantage of them," manager Ron Washington said. "Our offense hasn't gotten anything going."Detroit has won the first two games of the series after opening the season by dropping three of four in Toronto.Texas swept three games at home from the Cleveland Indians to begin the season.Polanco's two-out double off Harrison in the sixth scored Everett from first base to give Detroit a 4-3 lead. Everett had singled with one out.It was Polanco's second double of the game. He also hit a leadoff double in the fifth and scored the tying run on Marcus Thames' bases-loaded sacrifice fly."I have to be able to shut the other team down when I'm given a lead, and I couldn't do that," Harrison said.The Rangers took a 1-0 lead on Blalock's second-inning homer, but the Tigers came back with two in the bottom half.With one out, Thames and Gerald Laird singled, and Harrison walked Inge to load the bases. Everett, who came into the game hitting .143, bounced a two-run single between third and shortstop.The Rangers loaded the bases in the fifth before Hamilton flared a two-run single into left to give Texas a 3-2 lead.
Verlander has thrown 177 pitches in 8 2-3 innings over his first two starts, allowing 11 runs -- nine earned -- on 10 hits and six walks. ... Tigers reliever Joel Zumaya (shoulder) was scheduled to make a rehab appearance for Class-A Lakeland on Saturday. ... Curtis Granderson is the only Tigers player to have a hit in all six games this season. ... The Rangers will not face Tigers rookie Rick Porcello during the weekend series, preventing a matchup between the only two major leaguers too young to drink, 20-year-olds Porcello and Texas SS Elvis Andrus.