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DET@ARI: Verlander fans five over 6 2/3 innings

Before Justin Verlander began warming up for his most recent start in Arizona, he looked at some pictures of his arm action in years past. He noticed a difference between then and now.

Verlander decided to try to emulate his delivery of old, and in doing so, the struggling ace took a step in the right direction. He was by no means dominant, but he held the D-backs to three runs over 6 2/3 innings and picked up his ninth win.

"I could tell right from Jump Street -- it felt like I was able to throw the way I want," he said. "Really the first time all year that I felt like I've been able to locate my fastball as well as I would like to."

On Saturday night, Verlander will take the same approach into his start in Anaheim against the Angels, who feature a fearsome lineup that has been a bit off-kilter of late.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for the right-hander will be pushing deeper into the game -- in each of his last five starts, he's exited after at least six but less than seven frames.

In the third meeting of a four-game set, Verlander will take on Angels right-hander Matt Shoemaker, who has never faced any of the Tigers' hitters. Shoemaker, however, has squared off against five All-Star pitchers already in his rookie season: Yu Darvish, Cliff Lee, David Price, James Shields and Chris Sale. Verlander will make six.

On Monday against the Orioles, Shoemaker gave up four runs in 5 2/3 innings, striking out 10 and walking none. Adam Jones did all the damage with a pair of two-run homers, one in the first and one in the sixth.

"After the first inning, or even after Jones in the first, settled down, got rolling," Shoemaker said. "That's what's so frustrating. You come back from that and get into the sixth inning, made a bad pitch to him."

For the season, the 27-year-old boasts a 72/15 strikeout/walk ratio.

Tigers: Hunter red hot after cool June
Torii Hunter hit .194 in June and entered July with his average under .250, but he knew he had the potential to turn it around at any moment.

Now, he's seeing results. Nobody in the American League with at least 70 at-bats in July entered Friday with a higher OPS for the month than Hunter's 1.058 clip. His .357 batting average ranked fifth in that group, while his .671 slugging percentage trailed only Pittsburgh's Andrew McCutchen among Major League regulars.

"The numbers didn't show, but I was killing the ball," Hunter said. "I wasn't changing for nothing. You saw the 0-for-4, but I had four bullets, and I said I have to keep that going. And now it's dropping the last month or so."

Eleven of Hunter's first 25 hits in July went for extra bases, including five doubles, five homers and a triple.

Angels: Offense sputtering since break
The Angels rode a hot offense to five straight wins entering the All-Star break, but since then, their firepower has disappeared.

Through seven second-half games entering Friday, the Angels hit .225 while averaging just 3.1 runs per game. They were hitting just .200 with runners in scoring position during that span, including an 0-for-12 performance Wednesday night.

The drought has cost the Angels, who were 3-4 after the break. Their series loss to Baltimore was their first home series loss since early May.

"When you're swinging the bat well, you can absorb some of the shortcomings, just like when you're pitching well, you can absorb some of the shortcomings on the offensive end," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We haven't, through this week after the break, attacked the ball like we can in the batter's box, but I don't think it's anything that we need to reinvent the wheel with these guys."

Worth noting
• In his last start, Shoemaker became the fourth Angels rookie with two 10-strikeout games. He joined Ken McBride, Bo Belinsky and Frank Tanana.

• The Tigers acquired closer Joakim Soria from the Rangers on Wednesday in exchange for two pitching prospects.

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