Justin Verlander may not have completely returned to his dominant ways just yet, but he has shown recent signs of awakening from his first-half slumber.
In his last start against the Astros on Friday, Verlander went six innings and allowed three runs. Before that, he had a seven-inning, two-run performance in Cleveland. Both times, he matched his season high of eight strikeouts and his season low of one walk.
Verlander will look to build on that success, and put a pair of rough mid-June seven-run outings in the rearview when he faces Jesse Chavez and the A's at Comerica Park on Wednesday afternoon. The Tigers will be pursuing a three-game series sweep, and Verlander will be looking to follow up Rick Porcello's four-hit shutout on Tuesday.
After a seven-run meltdown against Kansas City on June 16, Verlander worked with manager Brad Ausmus and pitching coach Jeff Jones to make a mechanical change, moving more toward home plate as opposed to moving laterally.
"I felt like this was something we have to do to get him back to where he was," Ausmus said. "As pitchers get older and more mature, they have to make adjustments because, physically, they're going to change."
To get used to the change, Verlander has been throwing 25-30 pitches in an extra bullpen session between starts.
"It's probably more strenuous than I would like it to be," Verlander said. "I'm the kind of person that wants to get out there and repeat it, repeat it, repeat it until the muscle memory kicks in."
The A's certainly know how good Verlander can be at his best -- the right-hander has bounced Oakland two years straight in Game 5 of the American League Division Series, combining for 17 shutout innings with 21 strikeouts and two walks in those contests.
Oakland, which sports the best record and the highest run-scoring offense in the Majors, will seek revenge Wednesday -- or at least the regular-season version of it -- when they send Chavez to the hill.
Chavez is up to 98 innings pitched in his first season as a starter, meaning the A's are closely monitoring his workload. The righty submitted a so-so outing in Miami on Friday, surrendering four runs in five innings, but he maintains a sub-3.00 ERA and has been nothing but reliable during the first half.
Despite spending his career as a reliever from 2008-13, Chavez has lasted at least five innings in all 16 of his starts this year.
A's: Cespedes sits with hamstring strain
Left fielder Yoenis Cespedes was out of Tuesday's lineup and is day to day with a left hamstring strain.
Cespedes suffered the injury while racing home from first base in Monday's series-opening loss. The A's were hoping it was simply a cramp from playing in the Detroit humidity, but manager Bob Melvin confirmed the strain Tuesday.
"He's not going to do anything on the field today, and then we'll see how he is on the field come tomorrow," Melvin said.
Craig Gentry started in left and went 1-for-3 in place of Cespedes, who is riding a career-high 14-game hitting streak, with a .351 average during that span. Cespedes hit .324 in 26 games in June and leads the Majors with 10 outfield assists. As of the latest ballot update released Monday, he is in line to start the All-Star Game.
Tigers: Martinez battling side soreness
Victor Martinez was out of the Tigers' starting lineup on Tuesday due to soreness in his side, and he will miss Wednesday's finale as well.
J.D. Martinez replaced V-Mart at designated hitter on Tuesday and hit a two-run homer in Detroit's 3-0 victory. Torii Hunter is slated to start at DH on Wednesday.
Prior to Monday, Victor Martinez hadn't missed a game all season.
• The A's went 17-9 in June, which was the best mark in the Majors.
Aaron Leibowitz is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.