SEATTLE -- Justin Verlander felt fortunate to settle down both his emotions and his control, making the early runs he was given by Detroit's offense stand up.
After nearly getting ejected in the third inning, Verlander kept his composure to pick up his 12th straight decision on the road, Prince Fielder homered and the Tigers built an early lead before holding on for a 6-4 win over the Seattle Mariners on Tuesday night.
Just moments after manager Jim Leyland was ejected by home plate umpire Brian Knight for arguing balls and strikes in the third inning, Verlander found himself in a shouting match with Knight and needing to be restrained by teammates. Neither Verlander nor catcher Gerald Laird was ejected as calm eventually prevailed.
"I made a pitch that I thought was a strike and I say something and he's already upset obviously, so that's the nature of the game," Verlander said. "I talked to Brian when I came out of the game and I think we're both understanding of what was going on there. I'm just thankful that I didn't say too much or Gerald didn't say too much."
Despite not being sharp early, Verlander eventually found a groove and gave up three runs on seven hits. He retired nine of his final 10 batters, struck out six and went at least six innings for the 49th straight start.
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But it still took a tremendous defensive play from outfield replacement Don Kelly to give the Tigers their first victory over Seattle in five tries this season. On the verge of another ninth-inning meltdown, Kelly made a running catch while crashing into the first row of the stands on Jesus Montero's foul ball down the right field line with the bases loaded.
The catch gave Jose Valverde his sixth save in eight chances despite walking the bases loaded in the ninth.
"When you get over toward the stands you never know what is going to happen," Kelly said. "So you try to get up above (the fans) and come down with the ball."
Andy Dirks had a single, double and drove in three runs in his first two at-bats, helping give Verlander (3-1) a 5-0 lead. Delmon Young added a two-run double in the second and Fielder added his fifth homer of the season in the seventh.
But Leyland, who watched most of the game on TV in his office after being ejected, was not pleased with the number of poor pitches the Tigers were swinging at.
"I watched very close tonight because in the dugout you can't always tell and ... we swung at a lot of balls," Leyland said. "We're not going to hit if we swing at the kind of pitches we swung at tonight after the third or fourth inning."
Seattle starter Kevin Millwood (0-4) barely made it through the second. Austin Jackson doubled on the second pitch of the game and Dirks immediately followed with a single for a 1-0 lead. Millwood escaped a bases-loaded jam in the first, and again in the fifth, but was tagged for four runs in the second.
Brennan Boesch and Laird opened the inning with singles and scored on Dirks' double. After an out, Millwood walked Fielder and Young made Seattle pay for pitching around Fielder with a line-drive double into the left-center field gap to score Dirks and Fielder, chugging around from first.
Despite numerous chances, the Tigers weren't able to add on until the seventh when Fielder lined a solo shot deep into the right field seats off Seattle reliever Shawn Kelley.
"It all just comes down to that `one inning' again," Millwood said. "I was able to battle and get out of the first and then the second was that inning again."
Leyland was ejected after barking toward Knight after it was ruled that John Jaso held up on a 1-2 pitch that was low.
The third was the only inning Seattle got to Verlander with three straight hits capped by Ichiro Suzuki's RBI single, and later followed by Kyle Seager's two-run single.
"I wasn't happy with the strike zone," Leyland said. "I let them know it and they let me know where to go."
The Tigers are without C Alex Avila until at least Thursday in Oakland due to a sore right patella tendon. Avila aggravated his knee in Monday night's loss and Leyland said Avila would not play either Tuesday or Wednesday to give the knee some rest. ... Seattle is unsure if RHP Blake Beavan will be ready to make his scheduled start on Sunday in New York. Beavan took a liner off his right arm in Monday's game. ... Since last season, Seattle had won five straight vs. Detroit.