- Associated Press - Sunday, April 13, 2014

SAN DIEGO (AP) - Sometime soon, a baseball will be getting a prominent spot among the trophies on Justin Verlander’s mantle.

It’s the ball he hit up the middle for a single in the second inning Saturday night, the one that will forever shut up his teammates.

Verlander had the first two hits of his career and recovered from throwing 31 pitches in the first inning to pitch seven strong innings and lead the Detroit Tigers to a 6-2 victory over the San Diego Padres on Saturday night.

“It felt great. It’s been a long time and I can finally get all these guys off my back …,” Verlander said.

Verlander had been 0 for 26 with 15 strikeouts in his career when he stepped in against Ian Kennedy in the second inning and singled up the middle. When the ball came back to Kennedy, he tossed it to a ball boy near the Padres‘ dugout. Home plate umpire Seth Buckminster motioned for the ball boy to throw it to the Tigers‘ dugout.

“I think the Padres and probably Ian didn’t know that I had never had a hit,” Verlander said. “It’s been nine years in the big leagues now. They probably weren’t thinking about that but I sure as heck was. I was watching that ball like a hawk.”

The last time Verlander had a hit?

“High school. It’s been a long time,” he said.

“I guess I have no more leverage,” catcher Alex Avila said. “We’re all happy for him. It was fun to watch.”

Verlander cited a list of times when he came close to getting a hit.

“I think it’s kind of been an anomaly that I haven’t had one yet,” he said. “I feel like I’ve probably hit five or six hard that have been caught.”

Verlander singled to right in the fourth, although he had to hustle to avoid being thrown out by Chris Denorfia.

“I hit it pretty hard, too. It was a bang-bang play but I beat it out, thank goodness,” said Verlander, who eventually scored on Torii Hunter’s two-run single.

The sight of Verlander (1-1) on the mound at Petco Park was another reminder of how the Padres flubbed the top pick in the June 2004 amateur draft. Not wanting to pay a big signing bonus, the team passed on players such as Jered Weaver, Stephen Drew and Verlander in favor of local shortstop Matt Bush.

Bush, who signed for $3 million, never reached the big leagues and had numerous off-field problems. In December 2012, he was sentenced to four years and three months in a Florida prison for a drunken driving hit-and-run crash.

Story Continues →