Rangers-Tigers Preview

In his fourth major league season, Detroit Tigers ace Justin Verlander is experiencing the worst stretch of his young career.

Verlander looks to snap out of his 2008 funk and post his first victory of the year when the Tigers open a six-game homestand against the Texas Rangers on Tuesday.

In 2007, Verlander was among the AL's most successful pitchers, leading the Tigers (7-13) with a career-high 18 victories and going 5-1 with a 2.72 ERA over his final seven starts of the season.

That success, however, hasn't carried over to this year as Verlander (0-3, 7.03 ERA) is winless in four starts.

Perhaps his toughest outing occurred Thursday, when the right-hander allowed five runs and seven hits while walking four in five innings of an 11-1 loss at Cleveland. The defeat gave him the first three-game losing streak of his career.

"I've been throwing the ball decent, but things haven't been going my way," Verlander said. "(Thursday) was the first night I felt I didn't throw the ball well."

Verlander, though, has fared well versus the Rangers (7-13), going 3-1 with a 2.49 ERA in four career starts. He's 1-1 with a 5.56 ERA in two matchups at Comerica Park, where he went 10-3 with a 3.74 ERA in 17 games last season.

The Tigers were 5-4 against the Rangers in 2007, splitting six meetings in Detroit, where they are just 2-6 this season. They return home after wrapping up a 3-3 road trip with a 5-1 victory at Toronto on Monday.

Ryan Raburn drove in two runs and Edgar Renteria had a solo homer to back rookie Armando Galarraga, who's won back-to-back starts to become the team's lone two-game winner.

"We got some big hits today and took advantage of our opportunities," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "That's huge, that's what you've got to do."

Galarraga, called up from Triple-A Toledo last week to replace injured starter Dontrelle Willis (hyperextended right knee), was acquired in an offseason trade with the Rangers.

Texas fell 8-3 in Boston on Monday and endured its first four-game sweep at Fenway Park since Aug. 4-6, 2001. Josh Hamilton went 2-for-5 with two RBIs for the Rangers, who fell to 2-4 on their nine-game road swing.

They also lost starter Kason Gabbard, who slipped while delivering a pitch and left with a stiff back after two innings of work. He's day-to-day.

"We've got a lot of things to overcome, a lot of adversity to overcome," second baseman Ian Kinsler told the Rangers' official Web site. "We'll see what kind of team we are and what kind of players we have and what kind of character we have.

"We need to show some mental toughness, go to Detroit and win at least two, then go home and play better. We have a lot in front of us."

Texas will be trying to avoid its second five-game losing streak of the season behind Vicente Padilla (2-1, 3.12), who has been solid after battling through an injury-shortened 2007.

The right-hander is coming off his best outing so far, limiting Toronto to one run and seven hits over seven innings in a 4-1 road win Thursday.

Padilla is 3-0 with a 2.08 ERA in four starts versus the Tigers, with all of his decisions coming in Detroit, where he has a 1.35 ERA in three games.

Renteria is hitting .455 (5-for-11) with a homer versus Padilla, while Tigers designated hitter Gary Sheffield has batted .385 (15-for-39) with three homers against him.