Travis Wood was pumped up for his matchup against Justin Verlander, and he held up just fine.
Verlander was just a tick better.
Wood pitched into the seventh inning, but Austin Jackson had three hits and three RBIs to lead Verlander and the Detroit Tigers to a 5-3 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Thursday afternoon.
"It was another battle for me out there today," Wood said. "I found a lot of trouble but I was able to keep it close and pitch out of a lot of jams. A guy like Verlander is a great pitcher even when he doesn't have his 'A' game. We battled but just came up short."
Wood (0-3) allowed three runs and eight hits in 6 2-3 innings. The left-hander struck out three, walked two and hit two batters. He remains in search of his first win since he recorded two outs for Cincinnati at Pittsburgh on Aug. 19.
"He had really good command of his fastball inside and his cutter," Cubs manager Dale Sveum said. "Didn't really use a lot of secondary stuff today but had really good command of his fastball."
Verlander (6-4) pitched eight solid innings and helped himself with a pair of sacrifices as Detroit capped an encouraging 4-2 interleague road trip to Cincinnati and Chicago. Jackson hit a tiebreaking RBI single in the seventh and a two-run homer in the ninth to lead the Tigers to their fourth victory in five games.
"We've got to start winning two out of three," manager Jim Leyland said. "That's how you crawl back into the thing."
The combination of Verlander and a picturesque day in Chicago led to a season-high crowd of 42,292 that ran the total for the series to 124,782, setting a Wrigley Field record for a midweek three-game set. Tigers fans made up a good amount of that total, and they cheered everything Verlander did in the finale.
"Obviously it's a little bit strange," Sveum said of the Comerica Park-like stretches during the series. "Today it seemed like quite a bit more actually. That's kind of the adage of interleague play sometimes. ... It might be the last time a lot of those fans get to see their team at Wrigley so there's a lot of spending a lot of money for them tickets."
The Cubs scored two runs in the second on Darwin Barney's double and Luis Valbuena's groundout, but that was it against the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner.
Verlander, who also won the MVP award for his dominant 2011 season, retired 10 in a row and 16 of 17 batters following Barney's one-out hit in the second. Wood was the only one to reach during that string, but he was cut down trying to stretch his two-out liner in the fifth into a double.
"After the second I started getting my rhythm a little bit," Verlander said. "I started throwing my breaking ball for strikes. Keeping guys off balance and just making better pitches."
Verlander (6-4) yielded five hits, struck out eight and walked none in his first victory since he flirted with a no-hitter while allowing just one hit in a 6-0 victory against Pittsburgh on May 18. The ace right-hander was 0-3 with a 4.10 ERA in his previous four starts.
"He kind of stays on you the whole time," Cubs center fielder Tony Campana said. "He mixes his pitches so well and that's why he's so good."
Campana doubled and scored in the ninth before Jose Valverde finished for his 13th save in 16 chances.
Jackson also hit a leadoff double in the first and scored on Prince Fielder's double. He went 3 for 4 and is batting .359 (23 for 64) in his last 17 games.
Verlander went 0 for 1 to leave him hitless in 22 career at-bats, but that didn't diminish his day at the plate. He moved Ryan Raburn to second with a perfect sacrifice in the seventh and Jackson followed with a base hit to give the Tigers a 3-2 lead.
But it was Verlander's work on the mound that earned the admiration of his teammates.
"He definitely pitches with that bulldog mentality," Jackson said.