John Hicks slugged a two-run homer to ignite a surprising power surge and the Detroit Tigers averted a series sweep with a 6-3 win over the host Houston Astros on Sunday at Minute Maid Park.
Hicks’ 400-foot blast off Astros right-hander Justin Verlander (9-5) keyed a three-run second inning and set the tone for Detroit, which ended a seven-game losing skid. The Tigers slugged four home runs, all against Verlander, after entering the game last in the majors in dingers with 76.
Verlander struck out the side in the first inning but surrendered three consecutive hits to open the top of the second, with Hicks’ ninth home run following a leadoff single from first baseman Jim Adduci. Ronny Rodriguez added a single to center field and, after a Verlander throwing error enabled him to take third, scored on a sacrifice fly from Jeimer Candelario for a 3-0 lead.
Verlander struck out the side again in the fourth but surrendered a homer to Candelario, his 13th, leading off the fifth before Niko Goodrum and Adduci added solo blasts in the sixth. Hicks and Goodrum, whose home run was his ninth, pounced on sliders while Candelario and Adduci, who homered for the first time this season, belted fastballs out to right-center and left-center.
Facing his former team for the first time since a waiver deadline trade shipped him to Houston last August, Verlander became just the fifth pitcher in history to allow at least four home runs in a start where he posted 12-plus strikeouts. He allowed a season-high six runs (five earned) on six hits without walking a batter. His dozen strikeouts pushed Verlander past Bob Feller and Warren Spahn on the all-time list, with Verlander increasing his career total to 2,588 strikeouts.
Sunday marked the third time Verlander has surrendered four home runs in a start. He is winless over his last six appearances and has been stuck on 197 career victories since June 14.
The Astros, who scratched across a run off Tigers starter Francisco Liriano in the second inning before closing to within 3-2 in the fourth, capped their season-long 11-game homestand at 7-4. Liriano worked three innings against his former club, departing early with lower-back tightness.
Right-hander Drew VerHagen (1-2) earned the win in relief for Detroit.
—Field Level Media