He had allowed one hit -- a single to Ben Zobrist in the fifth inning -- and had thrown only 81 pitches.
Then, he and the Tigers were stunned.
The Rays put together a ninth-inning rally off the reigning AL Most Valuable Player and Cy Young Award winner, striking for four runs to end No. 35's streak and dealing the Tigers their first loss of the season.
"It's inexcusable," Verlander said after the game.
He'll have a chance to redeem himself when he takes the mound Friday at Tropicana Field.
Verlander is 8-4 with a 2.52 ERA this season and is coming off a complete game vs. the Pirates, in which he allowed only two runs on five hits.
"We had the horse going, and he pitched like the horse is supposed to pitch," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said after the game. "Guys that throw it 98-100 [mph], they're usually more mentally tough than guys that throw it 88."
If a high-velocity fastball is what characterizes mental toughness in a pitcher, then Friday's contest will be between two of the league's toughest as the Rays counter with fireballer David Price.
The left-hander is tied for the AL lead in wins (10) and owns a 2.95 ERA. He's 3-1 with a 2.36 ERA in four career starts vs. the Tigers. Facing someone like Verlander isn't something new to Price either. In his past four games, he's opposed Cole Hamels of the Phillies, R.A. Dickey of the Mets and CC Sabathia of the Yankees.
"This is what you envision as a little kid," said Price of going against a host of Cy Young Award contenders. "It definitely feels better when you can go out there and pitch well against a good team, and they have their No. 1 guy going as well."
The Rays have dropped four straight games and have fallen to fourth place in the AL East, so they hope Price can stop the bleeding.
Tigers: Martinez could return in September
About a week ago, Tigers owner Mike Ilitch told the Detroit Free Press that catcher/designated hitter Victor Martinez, who has been sidelined with a torn anterior cruciate ligament and was expected to miss the season, could return in August. On Thursday, he underwent an MRI and the team announced he wouldn't return in August, but could be back before the end of the season.
"Our best-case scenario for him would be a return sometime probably in mid- to late-September, at best," Tigers head athletic trainer Kevin Rand said.
Jhonny Peralta has anchored the bottom of the Tigers' lineup in June. He's batting .304 with nine extra-base hits. He's also hitless in 11 career at-bats against Price.
Austin Jackson (1-for-11), Miguel Cabrera (1-for-11), Prince Fielder (1-for-3) own a combined .120 batting average vs. Price. The Tigers' hottest hitters have no extra-base hits, one RBI and 12 strikeouts against the Rays lefty. Among the Tigers with at least 10 at-bats against Price, Ryan Raburn's .250 clip is the best.
Rays: Scott hitless in return from DL
Luke Scott (back stiffness) was activated from the disabled list for Thursday's game. He was penciled into the lineup as the designated hitter, batting cleanup. He went 0-for-3 with a walk in the game.
Relief pitcher Kyle Farnsworth won't return to his old closing role, Rays manager Joe Maddon said. It still belongs to Fernando Rodney, but Farnsworth will be happy just being back. After two rehab appearances for Triple-A Durham, Farnsworth could return as soon as Saturday.
"I feel like I'm throwing pretty good, about as good as I'm going to get right now," Farnsworth said Thursday.
There are quite a few Rays who hit Verlander well. Hideki Matsui is 8-for-24 (.333) with a double, a home run and four RBIs in his career. B.J. Upton, who missed the first game on the DL, is 8-for-18 (.444) with two doubles, a home run and five RBIs. And Scott is 4-for-14 (.286) with two doubles, a homer and five RBIs.
After enduring a four-game winless streak, Verlander has seemingly regained form, winning his past three games and scattering only 15 hits over 24 innings. He's 6-2 with a 3.68 ERA in 11 career starts against Tampa Bay and is 3-1 with a 2.57 ERA at Tropicana Field.