PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- While pitchers tend to be ahead of hitters during this early part of spring. Justin Verlander seems to be ahead of everyone.
Verlander was dominant Friday in his second Grapefruit League outing, firing three perfect innings in a 6-2 loss the Mets. New York starter Jon Niese nearly matched him with three scoreless innings of his own at Tradition Field.
In his second outing of the Grapefruit League season, Verlander struck out three, walked none and allowed no hits. He has given up one run over five spring innings, with five strikeouts and no walks.
"It was a good day or me," Verlander said. "I felt like, for the most part, my fastball location was good if not better than what it should be right now. I felt like it was coming out pretty free and easy for this time of year."
It was not until Verlander left the game the Mets broke through offensively, scoring one run on second baseman Jeff Kobernus' throwing error in the fourth inning, then another on Marlon Byrd's RBI single off Luke Putkonen. Jordany Valdespin and Ike Davis also added hits in the rally.
After Avisail Garcia tied the game with a two-run homer off Gonzalez Germen in the fifth, Germen loaded the bases with one out but induced a double play to preserve the 2-2 tie.
The Mets then reclaimed the lead on David Wright's RBI single off Bruce Rondon in the bottom of the inning, in what was Wright's final game before departing for the World Baseball Classic. Justin Turner added a two-run single in the sixth to make it 5-2.
Niese was making his Grapefruit League debut against the Tigers, after pitching two innings in the Mets' exhibition against the University of Michigan last weekend. He is tentatively slated to start Game 3 of the regular season for the Mets, but would become the leading candidate to pitch Opening Day if Johan Santana is not healthy.
"I felt good," Niese said of his Friday performance. "For the most part, all my pitches felt good."
Up next: Detroit will break off into a split-squad on Saturday, with Drew Smyly headlining the group at home taking on Jeanmar Gomez and the Pirates. Relievers Joaquin Benoit, Octavio Dotel and Phil Coke are also expected to pitch in Lakeland, Fla. Shawn Hill, Kyle Lobstein and Trevor Bell will head to Tampa to take on Ivan Nova and the Yankees. Both games are at 1:05 p.m. ET, and the home game against the Pirates will be broadcast on 97.1 FM in Detroit.