LAKELAND, Fla. -- Tigers ace Justin Verlander, the defending American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner, picked up right where he left off through his first four Grapefruit League starts on Sunday, leading Detroit to a 6-3 win over the Phillies with six innings of two-run ball, striking out three.
Minor league outfielder Tyler Collins, who was brought to Joker Marchant on Sunday because both teams were fielding split squads, blasted a three-run homer off Phillies reliever Joe Savery in the bottom of the seventh to break a 2-2 tie. James McCann's eighth-inning homer gave Detroit a four-run lead.
The Phillies got to Verlander for a pair of runs on four hits in the top of the first. Juan Pierre led off with a single but was erased on a double play. Then Shane Victorino doubled, Hunter Pence singled and Ty Wigginton doubled to give the Phillies a quick lead.
Phillies starter Scott Elarton, attempting a comeback after having not pitched in the Majors since 2008 -- he hasn't competed professionally since 2010 -- also struggled in the first inning, especially with his command.
After giving up a one-out triple to Brennan Boesch, the 36-year-old right-hander walked three of the next four hitters he faced. The one who put the ball in play, Prince Fielder, drilled a sacrifice fly deep to right.
Both starters settled down after that.
Verlander set down 12 straight batters before Miguel Abreu and Pierre reached on back-to-back infield singles in the top of the fifth. "I made a little bit of an adjustment, keeping my chest over my body a little bit," Verlander explained. "That got me to where I needed to be. I wasn't leaving the ball up in the zone and was hitting my spots better.
"I felt it when I was out there. I've always been blessed with being able to make adjustments pretty quickly."
Elarton allowed just two baserunners on a single and a walk in his final three innings.
"It was just a battle," Elarton said. "I think it's just that time of Spring Training where physically, I didn't feel good. I didn't have much life. But it's a good sign that I was able to battle through it. I'll take the results [in the last three innings], for sure.
"Obviously, I didn't want to walk that many guys. I was just fighting tempo, mechanics, just about everything. Next time, I think I'll be over that. I just want to pitch, go out there and get outs."
After sitting out so long, Elarton really didn't know what to expect.
"I guess I didn't remember exactly how hard it is," Elarton said with a smile. "Because it is. It's a very tough game. But at the same time, I love it. I really like the challenge, and I still think I'm up to it."
Don Kelly tied the score against Phillies reliever David Herndon in the bottom of the seventh with a two-out triple over the head of Minor League center fielder Peter Lavin, who had come in to replace starter Victorino.
Up next: Right-hander Joe Blanton will try to build on his strong spring on Monday at 1:05 p.m. ET, when the Phillies will host the Red Sox in a game at Bright House Field being shown on MLB.TV. In his first three Grapefruit League outings Blanton, who has battled injuries the last two seasons, has a 2.70 ERA while allowing just one walk and striking out eight in 10 innings.
Paul Hagen is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.