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Houston – Awkward.

John Hicks' wife and his older brother Daniel watched the Tigers' improbable 6-3 win over the Astros Sunday along with Ben Verlander and his wife in Justin Verlander's suite at Minute Maid Park.

Things might've gotten a little quiet in there when John Hicks, who like Verlander is a product of Goochland High School in Virginia, blasted a hanging slider some 400 feet onto the mezzanine beyond left-center field in the second inning.

"They might've got kicked out after that," Hicks joked.

This was the first time Verlander has faced the Tigers since they traded him last Aug. 31, and Hicks' homer was the first of four by Detroit on the day.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 6, Astros 3

And although some of the Tigers were playfully hooting on Verlander from the dugout, Hicks just put his head down and ran around the bases.

"There was no show," he said.

Still, it had to be a thrill. Daniel and Verlander were senior teammates at Goochland when John Hicks was in middle school. He said he went to nearly every game they played that year, before he went on to star at Goochland himself.

"It's up there," Hicks said when asked where that home run ranked on his thrill-meter. "Just knowing him so well. He's a really good pitcher. We were fortunate to hit some home runs off him, but we didn't do a whole lot other than that." 

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Verlander said on Friday facing the Tigers was going to be "different," and he wasn't kidding. But this probably wasn't what he had in mind.

"It was one of the, if not, the weirdest of my career," he said afterward. "It was just an interesting day. Had great stuff. It seemed like any time I made a mistake they were on it in any capacity.

"It was like I said, one of the weirdest games of my career." 

Verlander had his moments, for sure. He struck out 12 in six innings. Twelve of the first 15 outs he recorded were punch-outs.  And, other than the long balls, the Tigers scratched out just two singles.

"Hicksy's homer was big, it got everybody excited in the dugout, and it kind of went from there," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "It still doesn't take away from how good that guy is. We all know he's a great pitcher and we were fortunate to be able to bang him around a little bit today."

Verlander fanned seven of nine batters from the second through the fourth innings before Jeimer Candelario jumped a first-pitch fastball (94 mph) and sent it out to right-center field. It was his 13th homer of the season, his first (and second extra-base hit) since June 29.

"We tried to do the best we can against him," Candelario said. "He's a guy who makes really good pitches and you have to be ready. We battled, you know. You have to be able to compete and compete and then hopefully something good will happen."

The Tigers got him twice more in the sixth. Niko Goodrum lashed a hanging slider into the seats in right field, his ninth home run. One batter later, Jim Adduci took a high and outside fastball (95 mph) to the opposite field and over the tall wall in left field.

It was his third big-league homer, the second with the Tigers.

The four home runs were the most Verlander has allowed in one game since June 26, 2016 against the Indians. In fact, the Tigers are one of two teams to hit at least four bombs off Verlander in one game -- the Indians did it twice (also on Sept. 18, 2007).

The six runs are the most he's allowed since joining the Astros. 

"It was a little weird," Verlander said. "I actually woke up early this morning, don't usually do that. But it was a little weird knowing some of the guys in there. But once you cross the white lines it's business as usual.

"It's not like they had the same lineup. There were a lot of different guys that I didn't really know in there. It was definitely weird." 

The 12 strikeouts, though, pushed Verlander past two Hall-of-Famers on the all-time strikeout list. He’s at 2,588, passing No. 27 Bob Feller (2,581) and No. 26 Warren Spahn (2,583). He’s chasing No. 25 Tom Glavine (2,607).

The Tigers struck out 16 times on Sunday. In the last 25 games, they have fanned 222 times. 

"Yeah, our strikeout numbers were still higher than we wanted," Hicks said. "We didn't get a ton of hits off him, but the hits we got were big. We scored some runs, and that's what we need. 

"We will enjoy this through the (All-Star break) and hopefully come back swinging it hot when we get back."

Tigers starter Francisco Liriano was pulled from the game after three innings because of tightening in his lower back. He had allowed just one hit, but walked three. He’d gone to three-ball counts on seven of the 12 hitters he faced, and was at 61 pitches.

But the bullpen was stout.

Drew VerHagen (three innings, one run), Alex Wilson (scoreless seventh) and All-Star Joe Jimenez (scoreless eighth) retired 13 straight between the end of the fourth through the eighth.

Closer Shane Greene gave up a lead-off double to Alex Bregman in the ninth. He scored on a sacrifice fly by Yuli Gurriel before Greene locked it up.

The Tigers will go into the All-Star break with a 41-57 record.

"This was big for our baseball team," Gardenhire said. "Going up against Mr. Verlander, one of the best pitchers that's been around in a long time. Our guys were hooting on him from the dugout, which was fun.

"We needed this."

Twitter @cmccosky

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