SAN DIEGO, Ca. (Detroit Free Press) -- His excellence has been described in many ways in his nine years with the Tigers, but on Saturday night, a new phrase could be used:
Justin Verlander — he's a hit.
Verlander got the first two hits of his nine-year career and, picking up steam as he went along, held San Diego to two runs over seven innings and got his first win of the season.
His bid for his first win of the year came down to Joe Nathan coming in for the ninth with a four-run lead.
Nathan got the job done, and the Tigers won, 6-2.
Entering the San Diego fifth inning, Verlander had seven strikeouts in his 18 innings this season. Over the next three innings, he guarded a 4-2 lead by throwing scoreless ball and fanning six — two in the fifth, two in the sixth and two in the seventh.
That sent Verlander to 110 pitches, and lefty Ian Krol took over for the eighth.
After Torii Hunter's two-run single in the fourth, the next 11 Tigers went down in order until Nick Castellanos doubled with one out. But he was picked off second — on a successful replay challenge by San Diego — and the baserunning mistake looked bad when Alex Avila followed with a single.
Verlander got his first hit in 27 regular-season career at-bats when he singled sharply up the middle off right-hander Ian Kennedy with two out in the second. He was stranded.
The Tigers took the lead for good in the third when Ian Kinsler doubled again to lead off the third and scored on Miguel Cabrera's line-drive double down the leftfield line.
For Cabrera, who acknowledged Friday night his mechanics were amiss, it was his first extra-base hit in five games and his first RBI in six games.
On his second at-bat, Verlander singled with one out in the fourth to start a two-run rally. He went to second on Rajai Davis' single, and the runners moved up on Kinsler's groundout. Hunter laced a two-out single to center to score Verlander and Davis and make it 4-1.
Chase Headley, who homered Friday night, led off the fourth with a double and scored. Headley came up in the fifth with two out, runners on first and third and the Tigers ahead, 4-2.
On a 2-2 count, Verlander threw a high and hard one, and the switch-hitting Headley swung and missed at the 96 m.p.h. fastball. It was the first time this season that Verlander got an inning-ending strikeout with a runner in scoring position: in other words, vintage Verlander, powering out of a jam. It was his fourth strikeout of the game — his high in strikeouts for the young season.