Inside Pitch: Verlander Rolling

Justin Verlander went head-to-head with Johan Santana on Wednesday night, and with a little help from Vance Wilson, walked away as the victor after shutting out the Twins for eight innings in an excellent performance from the 23-year old.

Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander showed something good pitchers show Wednesday night: an ability to win a game with limited weapons.

Of course in some quarters, a 98 MPH fastball isn't a limited weapon, but it was how Verlander used his best pitch that showed something.

Verlander worked eight innings, didn't allow a run, gave up six hits but didn't walk or strike out a batter.

Catcher Vance Wilson coaxed him through inning after inning, relying mostly on his fastball. He changed speeds with it, moved it around the strike zone and occasionally mixed in a knuckle-curve or changeup just for effect.

The rookie right-hander is now 5-3, but only one of his starts this season has been a stinker.

"When he came up last year, he was just a thrower," catcher Vance Wilson said. "We've been pounding it into him that throwing it belt-high down the middle just isn't going to cut it up here. Now he's a pitcher."

He's more than that. Verlander made a sharp pickoff in the top of the eighth after Minnesota's leadoff man had singled to start the inning.

REPLAY: Vance Wilson belted a two-run home run with two out in the eighth inning Wednesday night while Justin Verlander and Todd Jones combined to shut out Minnesota in a 2-0 victory that was Detroit's sixth win in a row.

Chris Shelton coaxed a one-out walk out of losing pitcher Johan Santana (4-4) in the eighth. After 3B Brandon Inge became Santana's 12th strikeout victim, Wilson launched his first home run of the season over the left field fence.

Verlander (5-3) went the first eight innings with no walks, no strikeouts and no runs. He gave up six hits.

Jones came in for a typical un-smooth ninth, giving up a one-out hit and a two-out walk before closing the game and earning his 11th save on a popup to second.

--RHP Justin Verlander put up another good start Wednesday with eight innings of shutout ball against Minnesota. Verlander worked mostly off his fastball, which touched in the neighborhood of 98 MPH on occasion, and allowed only six hits. Oddly for such a hard thrower, he had no strikeouts and no walks. Verlander has had just one start where he got knocked around.

--RHP Todd Jones notched his 11th save Wednesday night in what is, for him, his typically rough fashion. Jones, who has just one blown save this season, began the eighth inning with a ground out, gave up a one-out single and then got his second out on a fly ball to the warning track. Jones walked the next batter (Rondell White's first unintentional walk of the season) before getting a pop-up to second to close out Detroit's 2-0 win over Minnesota.

--C Vance Wilson is another example of things going right for the Detroit Tigers this year. Wilson, in the lineup Wednesday night because regular C Ivan Rodriguez was serving as the Tigers' DH, cranked a two-run home run with two out in the eighth against LHP Johan Santana of the Twins. It was the winning hit in Detroit's 2-0 victory over Minnesota. "I was mad at myself, because he was pounding me inside with first-pitch fastballs," Wilson said. "I went up looking for it. I wanted to turn and burn." Wilson has been hitting well after remaking his swing during the winter.

--C Ivan Rodriguez replaced Dmitri Young as Detroit's designated hitter Wednesday. Using Rodriguez let manager Jim Leyland get C Vance Wilson into the lineup, another hot right-handed bat, against tough Minnesota lefty Johan Santana. Leyland has also been giving Rodriguez the occasional break from catching duties by using him as DH.

--DH Dmitri Young was not in the starting lineup Wednesday night. It wasn't a health issue, unless you count a sick bat as a health issue. Young said after returning to the lineup Tuesday night that his quad felt fine.

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