A first since 2008: Justin Verlander loses three straight

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Behind a sterling effort from Phil Hughes, the Yankees took down Justin Verlander and the Tigers 5-1 on Sunday, sending Detroit’s ace to his third straight loss.

Verlander, the AL Cy Young Award winner and MVP last year, was charged with all five runs in his 6 1/3 innings of work, though only three were earned. He gave up nine hits, two of them homers, and walked four in the contest.

It’s the first time since 2008 that Verlander has lost three straight. In fact, when Verlander lost to the Red Sox on Tuesday, it marked just the third time since the beginning of the 2009 season that he had suffered a two-game losing streak.

Verlander was very good in the first start of the losing streak, when he dropped a 2-1 game to the Indians, but he’s now given up five runs in back-to-back starts. His ERA stands at 2.67, which is the highest he’s finished an outing at since last June 9.

Hughes, on the other hand, turned in one of the best efforts of his career, throwing just his second complete game in 82 starts. He allowed four hits, walked three and struck out eight in earning his fifth win today.

J.D. Martinez tells teams he prefers an outfield role

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Free agent outfielder/slugger J.D. Martinez is reportedly seeking an outfield gig, says Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald. According to Silverman’s sources, Martinez’s suitors have been informed that the veteran slugger would give preference to teams that can offer a corner outfield spot, rather than a DH-only role.

That could spell trouble for the Red Sox, who appear to be Martinez’s biggest suitors so far this offseason. Outfielders Mookie Betts and Andrew Benintendi are firmly established at the corners, and prior reports from club president Dave Dombrowski suggest that center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is not going anywhere anytime soon (thereby eliminating the possibility of reshuffling the outfield). The DH spot is still wide open for Martinez, who doesn’t seem to be totally closed off to the idea, but any full-time or part-time role on the field is likely off the table at this point.

Of course, the Red Sox aren’t the only ones pursuing Martinez’s services this winter. The 30-year-old slugger has been linked to both the Diamondbacks and Giants in weeks past, and while they have the roster flexibility to accommodate his preferences, they’ll need to clear another massive hurdle: the seven-year, $250 million contract he’s said to be seeking. Both clubs will need to get creative to make such a deal work. The Diamondbacks are rumored to be shopping right-hander Zack Greinke in an attempt to free up some room on their payroll for Martinez, while the Giants appear more inclined to scour the trade market for outfield help than shell out cash for another hefty contract in free agency.