DETROIT -- Justin Verlander continues to show some of the best early-season stuff of his career -- one-hitter stuff for the first six innings. He couldn't figure on it being no-win stuff.
That's the way the Tigers' start, their slowest since 2008, is going. And it's tempering Verlander's enthusiasm over arguably his best start to a season since he was a rookie in 2006.
"I don't think it's terribly disappointing for me. I think it's terribly disappointing for the team," Verlander said after Monday's 2-0 loss to the Rangers. "I think we tried to battle as much as we could. I think their guy threw the ball extremely well. Good pitching beats good hitting."
Verlander's pitching almost beat one of the American League's early offensive juggernauts. A Rangers offense that came to town having scored at least six runs in five of its first nine games had only a Josh Hamilton single to show on the scoreboard against Verlander through 6 1/3 innings -- no other hits, no other baserunners, 19 out of 20 batters retired.
He was dropping curveballs on the corners for called third strikes and mixing speeds at will. The only thing he seemingly couldn't do for his guys was score a run. The way Alexi Ogando was pitching, nobody could.
Two days after Bruce Chen and the Royals came within a strike of shutting them out, Ogando and two relievers handed Detroit its first blanking of the season in a game close enough that the Tigers brought the potential winning run to the plate.
"That guy today was nasty," catcher Alex Avila said. "Even though you're going to be facing tough pitchers, everybody's tough. That's why they're in the big leagues. Eighty percent of the guys throw mid-90s with sliders and split-fingers, all that kind of stuff. You just have to be able to bear down and find ways to win those games, especially the way Justin pitched. We just didn't find a way to win today."
With a good breeze seemingly slowing any ball hit well into the air, Verlander and Ogando could pitch for fly balls at will.
Verlander retired Texas' first 11 batters until Hamilton singled with two outs in the fourth off a tough breaking ball. He had changed speeds to put Hamilton in a 1-2 count and looked to the curveball as a finishing pitch, as it had been for a few other outs to that point. Hamilton laced it into right-field for a no-question single.
"He's had some hits off of me off the breaking ball," Verlander said. "I wasn't trying to throw it where I did. I was trying to bury it, and I didn't get it to where I wanted to, so he got a hit.
"He's also the reigning AL MVP, so you've got to give him a little credit."
Verlander shrugged it off and retired the next eight until Hamilton came up again with one out in the seventh. He stayed outside with fastballs and changeups, trying to get him to bite, but walked him on five pitches.
After Adrian Beltre grounded a slider through the left side, the Rangers had their first runner in scoring position. One Verlander fastball later, they had their first run.
"The one to [Michael] Young kind of got up a little bit and ran over the plate," Verlander said. "That's where he likes to hit the ball. He likes it up and away from him, so he can do exactly what he did right there."
In that case, Young went opposite field with authority and sent it to the right-field wall. After Verlander recovered with a slick play to retrieve a comebacker off his leg and fire off-balance to home plate to retire Beltre, Mitch Moreland turned on a hanging changeup and hit another double to the same spot.
Verlander held it there and gave them a chance. A year ago, he needed 125 pitches to last five innings in one game, so he'll take a complete game in 119 pitches. But truth be told, he'd rather have the result.
Ogando (2-0) allowed just two hits over seven innings before leaving with fluid under a callus on his right index finger. Miguel Cabrera's fourth-inning double to the left-field fence produced Detroit's first and only situation with runners in scoring position against him, but Elvis Andrus' backpedaling grab on Victor Martinez's looping liner erased the chance with a double play.
Cabrera's second-inning single was Detroit's only other hit against him. Everybody else was a combined 0-for-19 with a walk off Ogando.
"He was kind of effectively wild," Avila said. "When a guy throws as hard as he does, you have to make sure you get ready early, which makes the offspeed stuff better, especially if he's throwing it for strikes."
There was one more changeup in store once Ogando left, and it was the ultimate nod to Cabrera. With Ryan Raburn on second, manager Ron Washington went to visit closer Neftali Feliz and agreed to walk Detroit's MVP runner-up. It meant putting the tying run on base and bringing up Martinez as the potential winning run, but it didn't matter.
"I had to pick my poison," Washington said, "and I didn't want Cabrera taking us to extra innings. Martinez is a good hitter and I have respect for him, but he's not swinging the bat well. He could have caught one and won the ballgame, but I decided to take my chances."
After Feliz fell behind in the count, it was a bigger chance. Feliz gave him a sinker on the outside corner. Martinez grounded it to second, where Ian Kinsler was playing him in the hole.
Martinez went 0-for-4 to fall to .225 (9-for-40) with two home runs and seven RBIs. Ordonez, who left with Achilles tendon tightness, flew out three times to fall to .208 (5-for-24). Leadoff man Will Rhymes went 0-for-4 and fell to .182. Cabrera, meanwhile, became the first player since 1946 to reach 300 doubles before his 28th birthday.