PHOENIX (AP) — A last-minute change in his arm action had Justin Verlander feeling like old times.
All because of some pictures of himself that he looked at “literally 10 minutes” before he warmed up.
Verlander pitched into the seventh inning, Torii Hunter and Austin Jackson homered and the Detroit Tigers opened their interleague series in Arizona by beating the Diamondbacks 4-3 on Monday night.
Verlander said he “came across a couple of pictures,” one from earlier in his career and one from this season. He was looking to see if he had changed his grip at all. Instead, he noticed a difference in his arm action and made an immediate adjustment when he warmed up in the bullpen.
“I went out and tried to throw the way that I used to throw,” he said.
The results, Verlander said, were immediate and carried over into the game, when he held Arizona hitless through the first three innings. The right-hander improved to 24-2 in interleague games by winning his 13th consecutive decision against National League teams.
“It felt like I was able to throw the way I want,” he said. “Really, the first time all year that I’ve been able to locate my fastball as well as I would like to.”
Miguel Cabrera drove in the go-ahead run in the seventh inning with a booming single just below the home run line on the Chase Field porch in left-center.
Hunter had a two-run homer in the second, his fifth in the last 15 games. Jackson added a solo shot. Both were off starter Vidal Nuno (0-2).
“That is a tough lineup there,” Nuno said. “If you leave balls up they can do some damage.”
Verlander (9-8) allowed three runs and six hits in 6 2-3 innings to win for the third time in his last four starts. He struck out five to pass Hal Newhouser into third place on the Tigers’ all-time list (1,772).
Joe Nathan pitched a scoreless ninth for his 20th save in 25 opportunities.
There seemed to be as many Tigers fans as there were for the Diamondbacks.
“It felt like I was pitching in Detroit,” Nathan joked, “except there weren’t as many boos.”
Gerardo Parra homered for Arizona.
Nuno, in his third start since coming to Arizona in the trade that sent Brandon McCarthy to the New York Yankees, went 4 2-3 innings, allowing three runs and seven hits.
After Parra’s solo homer tied it in the sixth, the Tigers bounced back in the seventh.
Jackson led off with a double. With one out, Cabrera lofted one to deep left center, off the fence on the overhang. Jackson scored but Cabrera was out on a close play trying to stretch the hit into a double.
Crew chief Fieldin Culbreth called for a video review of Cabrera’s hit to make sure it wasn’t a home run.
The two homers put Detroit up 3-0.
Arizona, coming off a three-game home sweep of the Chicago Cubs, scored two runs in the fourth.
The Diamondbacks blew a chance to tie it in the seventh. Ender Inciarte singled with one out and was picked off by catcher Bryan Holaday. The next two batters reached on a walk and a single.
“I messed up,” Inciarte said. “I thought it was a 3-2 count. I was going to go and when I came back I thought I had a chance to get back to the bag but my foot got stuck in the ground. Either way I messed up. I should be aware of the situation.”
Holaday said he had noticed that Inciarte was “pretty far off” first.
“He’s a pretty fast guy,” Holaday said, “but I noticed he didn’t get back immediately. I made the throw after I saw that.”
Arizona manager Kirk Gibson challenged the pickoff call on Inciarte but lost.
NOTES: The Tigers’ career strikeout leaders are Mickey Lolich (2,679) and Jack Morris (1,980). … In Tuesday night’s second game of the series, the Tigers will send Rick Porcello (12-5, 3.39 ERA) to the mound against Arizona’s Chase Anderson (6-4, 4.64). … Arizona’s Paul Goldschmidt doubled to boost his major league-leading total to 38. Cabrera leads the AL with 36. … Arizona had won a season-high four consecutive home gam