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Verlander sharp, but unlucky in finale

Verlander sharp, but unlucky in finale

DETROIT -- Justin Verlander can't seem to get a break these days.

Even when he pitches well, the losses keep piling. Even when the Tigers' 25-year-old ace has his best stuff of the season, as he did in Sunday's nationally-televised series finale against the Angels, he can't find a streak of luck.

Verlander took the loss in Detroit's 6-2 series-clinching defeat in front of 36,347 at Comerica Park, a shame considering how well he pitched. The velocity on his fastball registered in the mid-90s. He said his breaking ball was the best it's been this year. He hit spots, made the pitches he needed to make, but it all equaled Verlander's fourth loss in five starts this season.

"My stuff was the best it's been all year -- breaking ball was sharper, fastball had better life on it, everything was better," Verlander said. "That's what I was looking for right now. Obviously the results are not what I wanted, but that's something I can take away from, and say, 'OK, let's build on that.'"

Coming off his first win this season on Tuesday against Texas, Verlander looked destined for win No. 2 in this one, especially with Detroit's starting lineup intact for the first time this season. He kept the Angels off the scoreboard and allowed just one hit through three. But then he gave up single runs in the fourth and fifth, and a four-spot in the sixth that knocked him out of the game.

"That was a shame," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He had really good stuff. I thought he threw the ball extremely well, and I thought he had all his pitches going pretty good. The one inning they scored the four, his control got away from him a little bit."

He finished with six earned runs allowed on seven hits and four walks in 5 2/3 innings. But even the Angels didn't feel that line did his effort justice.

"He's tough. He had terrific velocity and was changing speeds," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "He got his pitch count up, and we got the big inning against him. But his stuff looks terrific."

It didn't help matters that the Angels' struggling starter, Jered Weaver, got back on track against the fully-stocked Tigers offense. Detroit put two runners on in the second and fourth innings, but came away empty. They didn't score until the seventh, with the Angels up 6-0 and Weaver finally running out of steam.

"When we had a couple shots there, we let him off the hook, swung at some pitches out of the strike zone," Leyland said. "He pitched very well, too, don't get me wrong. He used both sides of the plate, changed speeds, threw strikes."

Meanwhile, Verlander struggled to find the strike zone in the decisive sixth.

Gary Matthews Jr. opened the inning with a walk. Vladimir Guerrero followed with a bullet single to right, but an error by Carlos Guillen allowed the runners to settle at second and third with no outs. Second baseman Placido Polanco received the relay throw from right fielder Magglio Ordonez, turned and tried to throw out Matthews, who was trying to advance to third. Guillen, making his first start at third since 2003, bobbled the ball, which allowed Guerrero to motor to second.

After Verlander got Casey Kotchman to fly out to center, he faced Torii Hunter, who had tripled in a run earlier in the game. Verlander hung a curveball, and Hunter squeaked a grounder inside third base and down the left-field line for a two-run double that made it 4-0.

"Torii did what I wanted him to do," Verlander said. "He grounded it, but he placed it in a good spot right down the line."

Verlander next intentionally walked Garret Anderson, and another walk to Maicer Izturis loaded the bases for No. 9 hitter Erick Aybar. Aybar produced one of the biggest hits of the night, drilling another high offering through the left side that bumped the lead to 6-0, taking the wind out of the energetic crowd and ending Verlander's night.

"He pitched a great game and just had some bad luck," Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez said. The Angels "played better. They did the things they needed to do to win games."

Scott McNeish is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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