DETROIT — In possibly his most encouraging start of the season, Justin Verlander reached back to past, but familiar, territory with his velocity on Wednesday.
"That's the first time I've seen him at 99 (mph) since I've been here," Detroit Tigers' second-year manager Brad Ausmus said after a 7-4 victory over the Chicago White Sox at Comerica Park.
What's more, said Verlander, "it felt great. The same effort was producing 94, 95, 96 earlier."
In his prime, the 32-year-old's signature style included dialing upper-90s heat in the late innings, and true to his old form, he stepped on the gas in a seventh-inning jam Wednesday. With two outs and the bases loaded, he used five 98-99 mph fastballs to strike out Geovany Soto, exiting with a four-run lead.
Verlander allowed three runs on five hits with eight strikeouts in his seven innings.
It's been a challenging year for Verlander, a former Cy Young and MVP awards winner whose season debut was delayed until June 13 because of an arm issue coming out of spring training. He allowed at least five runs in four of his first nine starts, but in the last nine, he's allowed as many as four just once while posting a 2.10 ERA.
Even with Wednesday's victory, he's 4-8 for the season — and the win was only his second of the year at home.
Melky Cabrera's 100th career home run, a two-run shot in the fourth, accounted for the first two White Sox runs.
Detroit scored twice in the first on Victor Martinez's 11th home run, his 200th career homer, then added four more runs in the third — two of them on J.D. Martinez's bases-loaded double that gave him 98 RBIs for the season.
Victor Martinez is another Tiger finishing strong after a mostly disappointing season.
"He's trending upward in a lot of categories," Ausmus said. "The ball is coming off his bat harder."
Martinez called it a frustrating year for himself and for the team as well.
"Not making the playoffs is failing," he said.
Rajai Davis, who scored three runs, had two singles and a triple for the Tigers.
FRANKIE SAYS RE-DO?
Making his first career start, White Sox right-hander Frankie Montas (0-1) worked the first three innings. He allowed six runs on six hits.
In five previous relief outings for the Sox, he had a 1.13 ERA.
"Things didn't go like I wanted," said Montas. "But that's part of the game."
REMEMBERING YOGI BERRA
"It's a sad day," Ausmus said of Berra's passing. "He was a larger-than-life character who had a positive impact on the game of baseball and on those around him."
Tigers: 1B Miguel Cabrera did not play, but lower back soreness is not expected to keep him out for multiple games. "If we were fighting for a playoff spot, he'd be playing," manager Brad Ausmus said. "But with an off day tomorrow, I'd rather knock it out and have him be ready for the series we have left against teams in contention."
White Sox: Still day-to-day with patella tendinitis in his right knee, 1B Adam LaRoche is "ramping it up and taking batting practice. We're hoping to get him back in there maybe this weekend," said Sox manager Robin Ventura. ... 3B Mike Olt, whose third-inning two-out single was Chicago's first hit off Verlander, left the game with right shoulder discomfort after five innings.
Tigers: Detroit is off Thursday, then opens a series at home against the Twins on Friday. Matt Boyd (1-5, 7.40) will go for the Tigers against Mike Pelfrey (6-10, 4.16).
White Sox: Chicago opens a four-game series at Yankee Stadium, with Chris Sale (12-10, 3.47) facing Michael Pineda (11-8, 4.10).