For a brief, fleeting moment, the Minnesota Twins appeared to be bothering Justin Verlander. They even forced him to throw 29 pitches in the first inning.
Then the Detroit ace settled down and starting making hitters look silly again.
Verlander allowed one run over 7 2-3 innings to become baseball's first 18-game winner, and the Tigers breezed to an easy 7-1 victory over the Twins on Tuesday night.
"We got his pitch count up — I think he threw 29 in the first and was up to 60 after three — but you can't just take pitches against that guy," Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire said. "You've got to get some big hits, and we didn't do that. Eventually, he gets into a rhythm, and he's filthy."
Verlander (18-5) allowed seven hits in another impressive outing. He struck out eight to surpass 200 on the year, walked one and lowered his ERA to 2.31.
Miguel Cabrera drove in three runs for the Tigers, and Ramon Santiago hit his third home run of the season, a solo shot in the sixth.
Elsewhere in the AL it was: Toronto 13 Seattle 7; Boston 3 Tampa Bay 1 (1st game); Tampa Bay 6 Boston 2 (2nd game); New York 9 Kansas City 7; Chicago 8 Cleveland 7 (14 innings); Oakland 8 Baltimore 4; and Texas 7 Los Angeles 3.
At Detroit, Nick Blackburn (7-10) allowed five runs and 11 hits in 4 2-3 innings.
Minnesota slugger Jim Thome was out of the starting lineup Tuesday, one night after hitting two home runs to reach 600 for his career. He did pinch-hit with two outs in the ninth, drawing a standing ovation from the Detroit crowd. That reception then morphed almost seamlessly into a celebration when Thome struck out to end the game.
Thome's teammates had little success against Verlander. The Twins put two men on in the first, but Justin Morneau hit a popup and Jason Kubel struck out to end the threat.
"He's a tough cookie. That's why he's about to win the Cy Young," Minnesota outfielder Ben Revere said. "When he's going like that, with that lineup, you don't have a chance. You have to figure on scoring five or six runs to beat them — tonight, it would have been eight — and that's not going to happen against him."
Verlander's 200th strikeout of the season came in the sixth, when Morneau watched a breaking ball drop toward the outside corner, then slowly walked back to the dugout looking like he was about to roll his eyes.
"I was a little concerned because the pitch count got pretty high in the first inning, but then he took care of that as the game went on," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "He did great. We get spoiled, to be honest with you."
Verlander struck out two more Twins to start the seventh and another two in the eighth, getting former MVP Joe Mauer swinging on a breaking ball that dropped wickedly as it reached the plate. Morneau finally managed an RBI single that inning, chasing Verlander from the game. The tall right-hander received a standing ovation from the sellout crowd before he even left the mound, and he acknowledged the fans on his way to the dugout with a wave of his left hand.
Cabrera opened the scoring with a two-run single in the third, and the Tigers added three more runs in the fifth on RBI singles by Victor Martinez, Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta.
Avila and Austin Jackson both reached base four times for the Tigers. Brennan Boesch scored three runs.
Detroit's last eight wins had been by one run, but there wasn't much to sweat out on this night.
Santiago led off the bottom of the sixth with a homer that made it 6-0, and Cabrera, who extended his hitting streak to 14 games, added an RBI single.
Blue Jays 13 Mariners 7
At Seattle, Jose Bautista hit his major league-leading 35th home run, Colby Rasmus and Aaron Hill each drive in four runs and Toronto rallied twice to beat the Mariners.
Red Sox 3 Rays 1 (1st game)
Rays 6 Red Sox 2 (2nd game)
At Boston, rookie Desmond Jennings hit his fifth home run of the season and Jeff Niemann struck out 10 as the Tampa Bay Rays salvaged a split of a doubleheader with a second game victory over Boston.
The Red Sox opened the day with a win, but couldn't overcome two unearned runs in the second inning of the nightcap. Boston also couldn't capitalize on its first triple play since 1994.
Yankees 9 Royals 7
At Kansas City, Mo., Robinson Cano hit a three-run homer into the Kauffman Stadium fountains, Russell Martin of Chelsea, Que., and Derek Jeter each drove in a pair of runs, and New York beat Kansas City to give Ivan Nova his eighth consecutive victory.
White Sox 8 Indians 7 (14 innings)
At Chicago, Juan Pierre's game-ending single in the 14th inning capped a wild, five-hour marathon win for the White Sox over Cleveland.
Athletics 8 Orioles 4
At Oakland, Calif., Josh Willingham hit a home run and had two hits, and Coco Crisp drove in two runs as the Athletics beat Baltimore.
Rangers 7 Angels 3