Tigers win fifth straight with sweep of slumping Mariners

SEATTLE (AP) -- Justin Verlander came out throwing 100 mph and higher in the first inning. When he settled down into the upper 90s, the Mariners didn't have a chance.

Verlander pitched seven strong innings and Craig Monroe hit a three-run home run to help the Tigers beat Felix Hernandez and the slumping Seattle Mariners 6-4 on Sunday, completing a three-game series sweep.

Verlander (2-2) allowed only four hits for Detroit, which swept a series in Seattle for the first time since Aug. 14-16, 2000. Its starting pitchers held the Mariners to one run and 10 hits in 20 innings in the three games.

"I'm glad Verlander is on our team so I don't have to face him," Curtis Granderson said. "He looks like he has an edge in this game -- and he's only 20 years old."

The Tigers (12-7) won their fifth straight game for the second time this season. They didn't have two five-game winning streaks last year until late August -- en route to their fifth consecutive 90-loss season.

They are also 10-2 on the road, their best road start since the 1984 World Series champions went 17-0 away from home to begin the season.

"I didn't know what to expect," said first-year manager Jim Leyland, who skippered Colorado in 1999 in his last mangerial post. "I knew there was talent here. But we still have a long way to go. We've got some kids, but we're getting better."

That includes Verlander, who hit 100 and 101 mph against Richie Sexson in the first inning and didn't allow a hit until Yuniesky Betancourt's two-out single in the fifth. Ichiro Suzuki followed with a single. Jose Lopez then doubled into the left-field corner to score Betancourt.

With the Tigers leading 3-1 in the eighth, reliever Clint Nageotte walked Carlos Guillen and then intentionally walked Chris Shelton before Monroe's homer made it 6-1.

Monroe had been 0-for-3 with two strikeouts against Hernandez before his second eighth-inning homer in as many games.

"I wanted to set the tone. I didn't want to be the guy who you walk guys to get to. That doesn't make you feel like a good hitter," Monroe said, chuckling.

The Mariners closed within 6-4 in the bottom half on an RBI double by Sexson and a two-run double by Adrian Beltre. Seattle loaded the bases before reliever Fernando Rodney -- who had three saves while Todd Jones was out with a pulled hamstring -- got pinch-hitter Roberto Petagine to strike out.

Jones pitched the ninth for his second save in two games since coming off the disabled list Friday. He said he hopes to be able to pitch on consecutive days soon.

"I'm still building arm strength," he said. "But I had much better velocity and location today."

The Mariners have four straight and seven of eight. They are 1-5 on a nine-game homestand -- with the World Series champion Chicago White Sox, winners of eight in a row, in next.

They have scored only two runs before the seventh inning in the last five games.

"We are allowing teams to jump out on us early," Seattle manager Mike Hargrove said. "For whatever reason, our offense doesn't start clicking until the fourth or fifth. We have to find a way to correct that."

Hernandez (0-3) was nearly as good as Verlander. He gave up one run and six hits in seven innings. He walked one and struck out nine.

But Hernandez got the loss largely because of two mistakes by his catcher, Rene Rivera.

With runners on first and second in the first, Magglio Ordonez struck out, but Rivera threw the ball into center field trying to catch Omar Infante attempting to steal second. The error allowed Granderson to score the game's first run. Infante added another run on Rivera's passed ball.Game notes
Shelton's hot April cooled over the weekend. He was 0-for-9, dropping his average from an AL-best .426 to .371. ... The Tigers stole four bases against Rivera, who finished with two passed balls. He went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts. ... Sexson's double broke an 0-for-12 skid. ... Lopez's double in the fifth was the first Seattle extra-base hit in 25 innings, since Thursday.