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OAK@DET: Verlander fans four over six strong innings

Despite dropping three of four to Cleveland over the weekend, the Tigers still hold a 5 1/2-game lead in the American League Central, and they'll look to add to the win column beginning Monday, when they visit Arizona for a three-game set with the D-backs.

While the Tigers are just one game over .500 at home, they're 28-16 on the road, a discrepancy that manager Brad Ausmus struggled to explain.

"I don't really have any concrete reason for it," Ausmus said. "Maybe we just coincidentally have played or pitched better on the road. I really can't give you a reason. There's not really anything you can do about it. I guess we could wear our grey uniforms at home if Major League Baseball would let us."

This series at a National League park will create some lineup problems for Detroit, as normal designated hitter Victor Martinez will have to find somewhere to play in the field. Martinez shares a primary position with Miguel Cabrera at first base.

"I don't know exactly what it is," Ausmus said when asked what his plan is for Martinez in the desert. "Don't be shocked if Miggy's at third for a game or two in Arizona."

In preparation for that, Cabrera fielded grounders at third during a trip to Kansas City prior to the All-Star break.

The Tigers will send Justin Verlander to the mound on Monday. The righty has struggled for most of the campaign, tallying an 8-8 record and 4.88 ERA in the first half. Detroit will be hoping for the kind of second-half resurgence Verlander had last year that helped lead the squad to the AL Championship Series.

The D-backs will get another look at newcomer Vidal Nuno, who will be making his third start for Arizona since being acquired him from the Yankees. After an impressive first start on July 8 in which he shut down the Marlins over seven innings, Nuno stumbled against San Francisco on July 13, giving up four earned runs on six hits over five innings.

The left-hander is still adjusting to life in the NL.

"Hitting's new, facing new guys," Nuno said. "The whole atmosphere is new. It's baseball still, so nothing changes -- just go out there and get the work done and prepare every five days and produce.

"There's no DH, so you don't have to face a hitter, but some pitchers I've seen -- they can hit. So sometimes you've got to watch out. You don't want to give up that hit. Last start, I gave up a hit to Bumgarner, and pretty much it led off to a big rally that cost me the game. It's just a learning experience, and you've got to stay focused all the way through."

Tigers: Verlander enjoying career year at plate
Verlander could go hitless in the Tigers' two remaining series in NL stadiums and still say 2014 was a banner year for him at the plate. That's because he's already set a career high for hits -- with two.

Verlander singled twice while pitching in San Diego on April 12 and leads Detroit pitchers in batting average, even though he has just had three at-bats.

"I'll be honest with you -- I haven't seen enough of [the pitchers hitting] to claim any of them to be the best hitter," Ausmus said.

Tigers pitchers have been taking cuts in the batting cages in preparation for Arizona since the final first-half series in Kansas City.

D-backs: Gibson easing Trumbo back in
Mark Trumbo played only seven games during his Minor League rehab stint while he worked to return from a stress fracture in his left foot, so manager Kirk Gibson is trying to ease him into the lineup now that the slugger is back in the big leagues.

"It's not an injury concern," Gibson said. "It's more of a ... rehab situation where I just didn't think to run him through five days in a row was a smart thing to do."

Trumbo started two of three games in the D-backs' final series before the break against the Giants and each of the first two games against the Cubs this weekend before Gibson rested him in Sunday's finale.

Trumbo has gone 3-for-18 since he returned to the Majors, but he had an encouraging night on Saturday, hitting the ball hard three times in a 1-for-5 showing.

"It's easier to stomach if you hit it hard," Trumbo said. "I guess I've gotten better at that the longer I've played.

"Sometimes you could feel sorry for yourself, but at the end of the day, you did what you're supposed to do, so put it in the positive column."

Worth noting
• Monday's game is the first of a seven-game road trip for Detroit. The Tigers are hitting .271 as a team on the road, while the pitching staff has a road ERA of 3.65.

• Gibson said that veteran Eric Chavez's knee isn't improving, and he doesn't know if Chavez will return this season. Comments