Tigers visit Mariners as Verlander tries to end skid

Verlander: 16 ER in last 3 starts

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SEATTLE, Wash. - With a win in Oakland on Thursday afternoon the Detroit Tigers (30-20) earned a split in the four-game series and improved their record to 3-8 since May 19. But despite the massive struggles, Detroit still owns the top record in the American League.

The Tigers will look to win back-to-back games Friday, for the first time since May 18, in the opening game of a three-game series at Safeco Field. The Seattle Mariners (26-27) are coming off a series split of their own after dropping a game Sunday against the Angels.

TV: 10:10 p.m. ET, FSN Detroit, ROOT (Seattle)

Detroit will hope for a bounce-back start from Justin Verlander, who is mired in one of the worst slumps of his career. In his last three starts the 31-year-old has allowed 16 earned runs on 28 hits in just 17 1/3 innings. His ERA, which was 2.67 on May 13, has inflated to 4.04 while his strikeouts are at a season-low: just seven combined in three starts. Verlander recorded seven or more strikeouts in a single game four times in his first seven starts of 2014.

In 2013 Verlander failed to defeat the Mariners in two starts, though he pitched well in both of them. He went seven innings in each start, allowing a total of five runs but taking two loses. Seattle hitters own a .242 batting average with four home runs career against Verlander.

Seattle's new star second baseman Robinson Cano is off to a hot start at the plate, hitting .327 with 31 RBI, but struggled against Verlander during his tenure with the Yankees, hitting just .239 in 39 at-bats with no home runs and six strikeouts.

Hisashi Iwakuma will oppose Verlander on Friday, making his sixth start after starting the season on the disabled list. The 33-year-old has won three of his first five starts and owns s 2.39 ERA. Tiger hitters will have to be aggressive against the righty, as he has walked just two batters this season compared to 24 strikeouts.

Ian Kinsler owned Iwakuma as a member of the Rangers, hitting .400 (8/20) with three home runs against him. Kinsler will need to lead the offense on Friday, as the rest of the roster owns a .145 (10/69) average and just one extra-base hit against Iwakuma.

Detroit's lead in the AL Central Division has slowly disintegrated over the course of the recent losing streak. A spread that reached as high as seven games has fallen to just 4.5 over the second-place White Sox, with both the Royals and Twins 6.5 games back. At 10 games over .500, the Tigers lead the A's by percentage points in the race for top team in the AL.

The Tigers and Mariners will play another night game on Saturday before finishing the series Sunday afternoon.

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