Lakeland, Fla. — Had it counted, it would have been a rarity — just the fifth time in his career.
But Thursday night's 7-2 loss to the Houston Astros was an exhibition game, of course, so the three home runs off Justin Verlander didn't count.
He's allowed more than two home runs in a game still just four times in his career.
And three home runs only three times.
Even so, any time you give up three in a span of seven batters, it's not your finest moment — so there can be no pretending that the game was close to being a gem for the Tigers' ace.
There was one comical moment to it when Verlander returned to the clubhouse and, sure enough, an expected text from former teammate Gerald Laird already had arrived — because the first home run off Verlander was hit by Laird's brother, Brandon.
But Verlander didn't make light of the rest of the appearance — in which he allowed four runs on six hits in 5-2/3 innings.
"I got hurt on a couple of fastballs," Verlander said. "The one to Laird was up and away, and he did what he's supposed to do when the wind is blowing out to right. He hit it to right.
"I still need to get ready. My slider isn't anywhere it needs to be. That's why I threw five of them to the same guy in that last inning. It will be the emphasis of my next bullpen."
Carlos Corporan and Matt Dominguez hit the other home runs off Verlander — with Corporan adding a two-run shot off Al Alburquerque in the seventh, a fly ball to right that Torii Hunter never saw and therefore never moved on.
"I can play my position," said Hunter, "but I can't catch what I can't see."
As for the two runs off Alburquerque, who has allowed six runs, five earned in the last three innings he's pitched, his struggles might have been the reason Leyland said after the game about his bullpen, "It's getting late. Some guys need to step it up."
Andy Dirks sat out the game because of his bruised (and swollen) right knee, but Leyland hopes he'll be able to play on Friday in Viera.
As for Avisail Garcia's sore heel, Leyland said, "He's better, but he's out. I have no idea (when he'll next play)."
Garcia said his goal to get back to playing before the Tigers leave Florida on March 30, but also couldn't pinpoint when that will be.
Don't count out Jose Alvarez as a possible left-hander making the team: "It's fair to say he's made a good impression," said Leyland. "He throws strikes and looks like he has a decent feel for pitching."
Alvarez, a 23-year-old Venezuelan, was signed as a minor-league free agent in November after spending the last three years in the Marlins' organization.