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Book on Verlander pays off with homer for ex-Tiger Avila

Tony Paul
The Detroit News
Chicago's Alex Avila heads for home on his solo home run in the fourth inning to make it 2-0 Chicago.

Detroit -- The last time Alex Avila reached base against Justin Verlander, the Tigers' ace got cute, throwing over to first -- almost as a joke, knowing his ex-teammate wasn't going anywhere.

On Wednesday, Verlander didn't have the chance to do it again.

Avila wasn't on the bases for very long, after hitting a mammoth solo homer in the center-field shrubs to give the Chicago White Sox a 2-0 lead in the fourth inning.

It was Avila's 38th career home run at Comerica Park, but first when he wasn't playing for the Tigers.

"Alex, having caught me a lot, cheated a little bit to the first-pitch heater in. That's fine. A lot of guys do that," Verlander said. "I just needed to execute that a little better.

"He knows me so well ... it's like he's faced me 1,000 times, so you can't get upset because it's an ex-teammate."

Avila, a teammate of Verlander's in Detroit from 2009-15, was 1-for-2 with a walk off Verlander when they met earlier this year.

This time, Verlander struck Avila out twice -- but that was sandwiched around the home run, which came right after Jose Abreu's home run.

"I know I'm gonna be hearing about it," Verlander said, able to smile, since the Tigers came back to win, 3-2, and complete the three-game sweep. "I think I'm gonna ask him back for one of the watches I gifted him. It's only fair I think.

"I'll start with the least-expensive one and work my way up, because we're gonna be facing each other a lot."

Avila made a classy trip around the bases, as was to be expected.

He didn't say a word to Verlander. He knows better.

"No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no," Verlander said -- yes, eight no's. "He might've done something if we were winning 9-1 or something, that might be different, because he knows I'm not so (ticked) off.

"In that situation, he knows I'm not one to hear it."

Avila is batting .241 with five home runs and eight RBIs in his first season with the White Sox.

Close view

Tigers manager Brad Ausmus occasionally warms up his pitchers between innings, if his catcher is still putting on equipment.

He did so in the top of the ninth inning Wednesday, catching three Francisco Rodriguez fastballs.

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It's a way for him to get a feel for what kind of stuff his pitcher has that day.

"You can kind of see the life of the ball," said Ausmus, "the way it moves."

That said, Ausmus isn't likely to use a poor three-pitch session to determine whether the leash is shorter that inning for a pitcher.

"I'm worried about two things," Ausmus said. "Catching the ball, and I don't have a cup on."

Rodriguez worked around a two-out single from Abreu in the ninth inning. A wild pitch moved Abreu to second, but he struck out Avila on a nasty change-up.

Around the horn

J.D. Martinez has to be a front-runner for American League player of the month for August. With his RBI single in four at-bats Wednesday, Martinez finished August batting .404 (42-for-104) with seven home runs, 15 RBIs, 11 doubles and 21 runs scored. His OPS was well over 1.000.

... Verlander has recorded 10 consecutive quality starts, matching a career high set in 2011, his MVP and Cy Young season.

He's also allowed 25 home runs this season, one more than his previous career high, also set in 2011.

... With two strikeouts, Victor Martinez has 73, his most since 2009. His career high is 78, in 2005 and 2006. Oddly, both strikeouts Wednesday came against Chris Sale, whom Martinez has owned in his career.

... Andrew Romine stole his sixth base of the season, and hasn't been caught this season.

tpaul@detroitnews.com

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