LOS ANGELES (AP) — Justin Verlander pitched into the eighth inning and Justin Upton homered for the fourth time in five games as the Detroit Tigers beat the Los Angeles Angels 4-2 on Friday night.
The Tigers have won five straight to move back into contention in both the AL Central and wild-card races.
Upton was hitting .226 when Tigers manager Brad Ausmus held him out of the starting lineup for three days last week. Since returning on Saturday, he’s batting .417 with seven extra-base hits and 11 RBIs in six games.
Verlander (14-7) allowed two runs and four hits in 7 2/3 innings. He walked one and struck out eight in his ninth straight quality start. Francisco Rodriguez got the last four outs for his 36th save.
Ricky Nolasco (4-12) held the Tigers scoreless for the first five innings, but ended up allowing four runs, nine hits and three walks in 6 1/3 innings.
Albert Pujols gave the Angels a 1-0 lead in the first, hitting his 585th career homer. He came into the game hitting .360 against the Tigers, the best average in baseball since 2001. It was Pujols’ first regular-season homer off Verlander, though he did hit one off the Tigers ace in the 2006 World Series.
The Tigers had runners on second and third with no outs in the second, but J.D. Martinez was easily thrown out at the plate trying to score on Casey McGehee’s grounder. James McCann popped out, and long-time Angel Erick Aybar walked in his first plate appearance against his old teammates.
That loaded the bases for Ian Kinsler, and he lined out to center. Neither team threatened again until the Tigers put runners on second and third with two outs in the fifth, but Miguel Cabrera hit the ball to almost the same place as Kinsler.
Detroit broke through in the sixth, tying the game on consecutive doubles by Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez, and Upton hit the next pitch into the stands in left field to give the Tigers a 3-1 lead.
Cameron Maybin added a solo homer in the seventh. Verlander didn’t allow a hit after the first inning until Kaleb Cowart’s one-out single in the eighth. Cowart, though, scored on Kole Calhoun’s two-out double.
That brought in Rodriguez, and he walked Mike Trout to put the tying run on base. Pujols hit an 0-1 pitch deep down the line in left, but it hooked foul. Rodriguez uncorked a wild pitch to move the runners to second and third.
Pujols, though, grounded out on the next pitch to end the threat.
Angels: INF Jefry Marte returned to the Angels after missing the series in Toronto with tonsillitis. . Reliever Cam Bedrosian is scheduled to see a vascular specialist early next week to determine if he needs season-ending surgery to remove a blood clot in his arm.
Tigers: RHP Jordan Zimmermann (neck) started for Triple-A Toledo in the first of what is expected to be three rehab starts. Zimmermann allowed two hits in 3 2/3 shutout innings, throwing 39 pitches.
Visiting relievers aren’t usually included in pre-game ceremonies, but the Tigers made an exception for Angels reliever A.J. Achter. Friday was Michigan State University Night at Comerica Park, and Achter is the only active major leaguer who played for the Spartans.
GOLD MEDALIST COMES HOME
Swimmer Allison Schmitt, who grew up about 30 miles west of Comerica Park, threw out the first pitch. Earlier this month, she won gold and silver in the Rio Olympics, giving her four career gold medals and eight total medals.
The teams continue their three-game series Saturday night, with Tigers rookie Michael Fulmer (10-4, 2.58) facing Brett Oberholtzer (3-2, 5.77). Oberholtzer is replacing Jhoulys Chacin in the rotation, with Chacin moving to the bullpen.
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