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Verlander shuts down Orioles

Verlander shuts down Orioles
Baltimore Orioles outfielder Adam Jones reacts after fouling a ball off his foot in the first inning of the Orioles' Sunday afternoon loss to the Detroit Tigers. (DYLAN SLAGLE/STAFF PHOTO , Carroll County Times)

BALTIMORE - The Orioles can't get a win against Justin Verlander.

Ever.

Baltimore's bats met up with Detroit's Verlander, the AL's reigning Cy Young and Most Valuable Player, on Sunday afternoon at Camden Yards. And Verlander did what he always does against the Birds - he shut them down.

Verlander threw eight dazzling innings and the Tigers beat the Orioles 4-0 in front of 30,439, who watched the home team fail to find any offense on a hot, humid afternoon.

Detroit's ace got the start last Tuesday in the All-Star Game and didn't fare well - Verlander gave up five runs in the first inning and took the loss in an 8-0 National League win.

His start Sunday was quite different, and Orioles manager Buck Showalter said he was well aware Verlander would be entering the second half much like he ended the first half.

Plus, he's now 7-0 with a 2.71 ERA lifetime against Baltimore (5-0, 2.05 at Camden Yards) with 65 strikeouts in 73 innings.

"We shouldn't feel like he's picking on us," Showalter said. "He's been doing that to a lot of hitters. He knows where the finish line is."

Verlander improved to 10-5 (with a 2.43 ERA) and scattered three hits over eight innings. He retired 16 of his final 17 batters and struck out shortstop J.J. Hardy swinging to end his day and garner a standing ovation from Tigers and Orioles fans alike.

Baltimore fell to 46-42 and was shut out for the seventh time this season. The Orioles have dropped five of their last seven series after winning the previous four June 5-17. They evened the three-game set with the Tigers thanks to an extra-inning thriller Saturday night, but Verlander made sure Detroit (46-43) went home a winner Sunday.

Verlander said he compartmentalized the All-Star Game experience and moved on in a hurry.

"I think everybody that has watched me or follows the Tigers or myself knows that that's not me, that's not the way I normally pitch," said Verlander, who threw 74 of his 117 pitches for strikes Sunday. "It's easy to turn the page on that and say that's not the way I pitch."

Verlander's manager, Jim Leyland, wasn't worried about the All-Star woes either. In fact, Leyland said he knew his ace would take the mound in KC and try to wow the fans with his 100-mph fastballs.

"I didn't predict that they'd hit him like that," Leyland said about the NL batters, "but I predicted that he was going to throw it, and he was going to try and get triple digits for sure. ... They hit it 120 at times." [But] he was great today."

The Orioles couldn't really muster a rebuttal.

"I felt like at times he was toying with us," said first baseman Chris Davis, one of Verlander's six strikeout victims. "He won MVP last year for a reason. I think it was good we had Jim Thome in the lineup or we might not have had any hits."

Other than a Mark Reynolds single to left in the seventh, Davis was spot-on.

A bright spot for the Birds was the big-league debut of Baltimore product Steve Johnson, who came on in relief in the eighth inning. The 24-year-old right-hander tossed two innings and struck out two but gave up a mammoth solo home run to Miguel Cabrera with one out in the ninth.

Johnson was demoted to Class-AAA Norfolk after the game but said coming in from the Camden Yards bullpen in front of friends and family was special.

So was striking out Austin Jackson with two on and two out in the eighth to get out of a big jam.

"That's something I'll take with me," Johnson said. "When they said I was going in the game, my heart started pounding. It was nice to be out there and have the fans get behind me that inning."

Meanwhile, Verlander put together another impressive performance. He has pitched six or more innings in 61 consecutive starts for the Tigers, who are glad to have their ace back in his usual form.

"The horse did what horses do," Leyland said. "He was in total command and I knew he would be, particularly after the All-Star Game. The fans wanted to see him throw it 100 [mph], he threw it 100. But today he pitched like he can pitch."

NOTE: The Orioles lost second baseman Robert Andino in the sixth inning because of an injury to his left shoulder. Andino dived to his left for a ball that made its way into right field off the bat of Alex Avila, and stayed on the ground while Nick Markakis threw home trying to get Prince Fielder at the plate. Andino left the field moments later, but said after the game he wasn't in much pain and had an MRI scheduled for today.

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