Detroit — There is one thing manager Brad Ausmus knows for certain about Justin Verlander — if there is a way out of his current funk, he will find it.
“He going to work at it,” Ausmus said. “He’s going to do his bullpen work, throw his pitches, work his grips and tweak his mechanics. That’s what he does. It’s not for a lack of effort. This is what he does on a weekly basis.
“He’s as voracious a worker as you will find.”
Tromped by the Indians again on Sunday — seven runs and nine hits in 3 1/3 innings — Verlander’s ERA is 4.96. The Indians have scored 18 runs in 14 innings over three starts against Verlander this season.
In four of his last seven starts overall, he’s lasted less than six innings.
“This was not a good day for him,” Ausmus said. “He had trouble with his command right out of the gate. Just not a good day for him.”
What’s mystifying about Verlander’s current struggles is, there doesn’t appear to be anything wrong with his stuff. The velocity on his fastball is up over last year (95-96 mph). His slider and curveball have been in and out throughout the season, but after a recent realignment of his shoulders, they have been sharp.
Yet, the results have been lacking.
“The raw stuff is still there,” Ausmus said. “Sometimes the action on his pitches isn’t what he wants and the command is not as good as he’d like. But the raw stuff gives you hope that it’s fixable.
“When the stuff declines, then you get concerned.”
That, by all accounts, is not the case.
Justin Upton, the Tigers’ player of the month in June, was held out of the lineup for the third straight game because of soreness in his right side.
“That’s sensationalism,” Ausmus joked before the game. “Because it’s really only been two days.”
Two days, three games — the reality is, the earliest Upton will return to the lineup is Tuesday, and that is not guaranteed.
“He’ll have the off-day Monday then we will see how it is on Tuesday,” Ausmus said.
The Tigers aren’t saying specifically where the pain is.
“It’s in that area (of the oblique muscle),” Ausmus said. “So it could be that.”
But the medical staff hasn’t yet felt it necessary to run any diagnostic tests, no MRIs.
Andrew Romine got his second straight start in left field.
Upton’s injury has forced Ausmus to keep a couple of weary players in the lineup.
“Miggy (Cabrera) could use a day off,” he said. “J.D. (Martinez), after two games on his feet (Saturday) could use a day off. But with Upton out, we need these guys to play. Luckily we have some veteran guys who are very good at sucking it up.”
Ausmus was finally able to get second baseman Ian Kinsler a day off.
“I promised him a day off a week ago in San Diego,” he said. “But he kept playing because we were having trouble winning games. He said he wanted to be on the field when we broke the (eight-game losing) streak.”
Dixon Machado started at second base Sunday, and shortstop Jose Iglesias hit in Kinsler’s lead-off spot.
Indians designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion had himself a day. He hit a triple and stole a base — the first time he’s done both in the same game.
The stolen base told the tale of the day for the Tigers. He thought there was a double steal called. He took off for second, but Michael Brantley, the runner on second, was still there. When catcher Alex Avila threw to second, Brantley broke to third and Jose Iglesias’ throw was late.
Both runners were safe.
Outfielder Alex Presley (concussion) has been cleared for light baseball activity and hit in the cage Sunday. He still is under the league’s concussion protocol.