First, Verlander struck out Michael Young with a knee-buckling breaking ball. Nelson Cruz was next and he went down swinging -- the bat slipping out of the Texas slugger's hands and sailing toward the coaching box near third base.
Verlander made it through six innings without allowing an earned run, and the Tigers held on to salvage a split of their doubleheader with Texas, beating the Rangers 3-2 in the nightcap Saturday. Five days after a 131-pitch complete game in a win at Kansas City, Verlander threw 115 against Texas, giving a battered Detroit pitching staff a lift and bringing the Rangers' eight-game winning streak to a halt.
"I thought he was outstanding tonight. That's a championship team, and it is a championship team that's hot, but he did a tremendous job," said Leyland, the Tigers' manager. "His limit was going to be 120, after what he did the other day."
Texas routed the Tigers 10-4 in the first game, but Verlander (2-1) held off the powerful Rangers, allowing four hits and three walks while striking out eight. The Rangers managed an unearned run in the fourth, but Detroit answered with three runs in the bottom of the inning against Neftali Feliz (1-1).
Octavio Dotel pitched the seventh for Detroit, Joaquin Benoit allowed a run in the eighth and Jose Valverde walked two in the ninth but struck out Josh Hamilton to end it, picking up his fourth save. Elvis Andrus, the batter before Hamilton, lined out to deep left.
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"Elvis hit the ball right on the screws," Hamilton said. "I was a little off balance tonight."
Texas third baseman Adrian Beltre left with a strained left hamstring after hitting a second-inning double in Saturday's first game. He's not expected to play for the rest of the weekend.
Verlander threw his 100th pitch in the fifth inning, but Leyland sent him back out for the sixth and told him of his pitch count restriction. The right-hander made quick work of Young, Cruz and David Murphy. He allowed a run on a walk, a passed ball and two flyouts in the fourth, but that was it. Verlander has now gone at least six innings in his last 46 regular-season starts.
"I've never seen a team as aggressive as they are right now -- at the plate, on the bases, everything. They've got a great lineup, and they are locked in, so they are trying to kill every pitch," Verlander said. "They feel good about themselves, and they are going after everything, so I had to mix in a lot of breaking stuff."
Feliz retired the first 10 hitters he faced with ease, but when he hit Brennan Boesch with a pitch in the fourth, his night turned sour. Feliz walked Prince Fielder with two outs and allowed Delmon Young's RBI single -- Detroit's first hit.
Feliz allowed three runs and three hits in eight innings. He walked four and struck out six.
The Rangers beat Detroit 10-3 on Thursday night in the first game of a four-game set. After a rainout Friday, they picked up right where they left off, scoring eight runs in the first inning of Saturday's opener against Rick Porcello (1-1).
"They're hot and they're aggressive and confident," Porcello said. "I was unable to come up with an answer."
Matt Harrison (3-0) allowed three runs and six hits in 7 2-3 innings for Texas, which was 7-0 on the road after winning the first game of the doubleheader. That streak ended thanks to Verlander and Santiago, and Feliz became the first Texas starter to lose. The Rangers' rotation is now 10-1.
Hamilton hit a three-run homer as part of Texas' big first inning. Mike Napoli hit a solo shot in the opener, his fifth straight game with a homer. Napoli didn't start the nightcap, but he did strike out as a pinch-hitter to end his streak.
Hamilton and Napoli each have six homers on the season.
"It's an awesome thing when we all get going like that," Murphy said. "We've got so many bats in our lineup that we're hard to beat if we keep hitting."
Porcello entered his start with a 1.84 ERA. It was 6.32 by the time he left. He allowed nine runs -- eight earned -- and 10 hits before being pulled with nobody out and two on in the second.
- Hamilton struck out four times in the nightcap.
- Texas had a chance to set a team record for best 15-game start, but had to settle for matching the 1989 Rangers' mark of 12-3.
- Detroit LHP Daniel Schlereth worked two innings in the opener, then was optioned to Triple-A Toledo. The Tigers purchased the contract of RHP Thad Weber from Toledo between games.
- Porcello's eight earned runs matched a career worst, and this was the shortest start of his career.
- Beltre hasn't missed a game this season, but he spent time on the disabled list last year with a left hamstring strain and was limited to 124 games in 2011.
- Dotel appeared in his 700th game.
- Detroit rookie Drew Smyly (0-0) takes on Texas RHP Colby Lewis (2-0) in the series finale Sunday.