Verlander fans 11 as Tigers top Nats

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DETROIT | Jim Leyland doesn’t believe momentum exists in baseball because your next pitcher will dictate if you win or lose.

Justin Verlander disagrees, sensing the Detroit Tigers are starting to put it all together.

Verlander struck out a season-high 11 and Brennan Boesch hit a three-run homer, giving Detroit an 8-3 win over the Washington Nationals on Wednesday night.

Detroit has won five straight, matching a season high.

“I definitely feel like there’s some momentum,” Verlander said. “We’re pitching well, hitting well and playing good defense. That’s how you get on streaks.

“Earlier in the year, we weren’t pitching well, but we were hitting. Then once the pitchers got locked in, we hit a lull at the plate.”

Verlander (8-4) gave up three runs — two on solo homers — seven hits and no walks over eight innings.

“Solo home runs are not the end of the world,” Detroit manager Jim Leyland said. “Three-run homers hurt.”

The Nationals found that out.

After pulling within two runs in the sixth, Boesch broke the game open the next inning with a blast off Livan Hernandez that soared deep into the right-field seats.

Washington manager Jim Riggleman blamed himself for not taking out Hernandez sooner.

“I gave him too much rope there,” Riggleman said. “We had it down to two runs, and I was hoping he could get through that inning, and we could score some more and get him a win, or at least a no-decision. It didn’t pay off.”

Hernandez (5-4) allowed eight runs, doubling his season high, seven hits and a season-high six walks over 6 2-3 innings.

“He doesn’t have the same stuff than he did when I had him, but he’s a very, very good pitcher,” said Leyland, who managed Hernandez during the Florida Marlins’ 1997 championship season. “I’ve never seen him like that control-wise. It was strange to see him walk those guys.”

Detroit scored its first run in the second on a bases-loaded walk. Gerald Laird’s two-run single and Don Kelly’s sacrifice fly made it 4-2.

“I felt very good in the first inning, but nothing worked in the second,” Hernandez said. “I guess that happens to every pitcher sometimes. You get on the mound and you suddenly can’t throw a strike. The slider was going outside, the curve was going inside and the sinker was dropping too low.”

The Tigers added a run in the third on Boesch’s run-scoring single and the rookie finished with four RBIs, matching a season high.

Adam Dunn and Roger Bernadina hit solo shots in the first two innings to put Washington ahead 2-0, but it couldn’t hold onto the lead and ended up losing for the fourth time in five games.

“It’s always tough to put a rally together against Verlander,” Riggleman said. “We got a couple solo homers, but he’s got too many weapons to ever expect to put together a sustained rally against him.

NOTES: Detroit OF Austin Jackson (back) didn’t play for a second straight game and Leyland said he’ll miss another day or two, adding he’s not concerned about the injury. … Washington’s Stephen Strasburg, who will make his third start at home Friday night against the Chicago White Sox, said eating shrimp instead of sandwiches before games has been the best part about being in the majors. … Leyland called Michigan State coach Tom Izzo on Tuesday night to congratulate him on choosing to stay in college instead of going to the Cleveland Cavaliers, and got a call back Wednesday morning. “I told him, ‘Sometimes the party you’re going to isn’t as good as the party you left,’” Leyland said. … Leyland wasn’t surprised Magglio Ordonez had four hits Tuesday after missing six games with strained stomach muscles. “Magglio can hit Christmas Day,” he said. Ordonez had another hit Wednesday and is batting .324 … Dunn is among NL leaders with 15 homers. … Detroit has set up a physical for Leyland’s son, Patrick, as the final step before signing the eighth-round draft pick to a contract. … Washington C Ivan Rodriguez extended his hitting streak to six games and an RBI streak to four games. … Verlander is 11-1 in interleague play.

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