SEATTLE -- Tigers manager Jim Leyland was ejected from Tuesday's 6-4 win over the Mariners for arguing balls and strikes during what became a contentious third inning for the Tigers with home-plate umpire Brian Knight.

"I'll make this simple: I just wasn't happy with the strike zone," Leyland said of the ejection. "I let them know it, and they let me know where to go. That's pretty much how it worked."

That exchange came on a 1-2 curveball from starter Justin Verlander to Mariners designated hitter John Jaso with two outs in the third after Seattle had turned a 5-0 deficit into a 5-3 game. Verlander's reaction on the very next pitch, a 2-2 fastball at the knees that also wasn't called, could have earned the Cy Young winner and MVP a spot in the clubhouse with his manager.

"What I told Brian," Verlander said, "was I don't want to yell in the middle of an inning, but these guys have a rally going. I can't really wait in between innings to voice my opinion. ...

"Your adrenaline's really going, so instead of, 'Hey, Brian, where've you got that?' it comes out a bit more aggressively than that. But what are you going to do?"

In Verlander's case, he went back to the mound before any more trouble could come about, thanks in part to catcher Gerald Laird's diplomacy. He couldn't afford to let Verlander risk ejection, but with starting catcher Alex Avila sidelined, he couldn't pick up the argument for him, either. So he told Knight he'd take care of it.

"There's no hard feelings. It's just the heat of the moment," Laird said he told Knight, a message Verlander echoed on his way out after six innings and three runs allowed.

By keeping his cool and finding his rhythm after what he called four of the toughest innings he can remember, Verlander (3-1) extended his road unbeaten streak to 11 straight decisions since July, continuing the longest such streak by a Tigers starter since Denny McLain in 1968. Yet, it marked his first win at Safeco Field since 2008, when he led the American League in losses.

Avila is day to day with sore left knee

SEATTLE -- The Tigers brought back Gerald Laird as a backup catcher in large part to help ease the wear and tear on Alex Avila, who developed patella tendinitis in both knees by the end of the 2011 season from catching every day. Now that Avila has a sore patella tendon in his left knee again, Laird is back behind the plate for the rest of the Tigers' series in Seattle.

At this point, Avila said, "I think it's a day-to-day thing. I definitely think I could be back Thursday."

The Tigers begin a four-game series in Oakland on Thursday night. Avila is potentially available to catch in an emergency before that, but manager Jim Leyland does not expect to use him as a pinch-hitter these next couple of days.

"He had this issue last year some," Leyland said Tuesday afternoon. "I'm not making a big deal about it, but I'm not making light of it either."

Neither is Avila, who said he has "no idea" why the problem resurfaced now after he spent the offseason working out to strengthen both knees. He said the team's medical staff told him he'll have to "amp up" his workouts to further strengthen the left knee.

"It's one of those things where the area around my knee needs to be strengthened," he said, "and then I should be fine."

Until then, Avila said, "I can't do anything more to it. It's just a pain-tolerance issue. It's not going to require surgery or anything like that."

Leyland and Avila said he first felt it when he charged out from behind the plate on Michael Saunders' bunt single in the third inning on Monday. Avila didn't say anything about it to Leyland, who kept him in the game the rest of the night.

"I felt bad last night," Leyland said. "I probably should've gotten him out of there in the ninth inning, but I didn't hear about it."

Leyland's faith in Dotel hasn't wavered

SEATTLE -- Octavio Dotel looked as wild as a rookie with a chance at a save Monday night against the Mariners. It cost him and the Tigers a loss, but it won't cost him his manager's trust going forward.

"If the situation would come up again," Jim Leyland said, "I would feel comfortable with Octavio Dotel."

If things go to plan, of course, Dotel won't have that situation often, if at all. The Tigers signed him to get big outs in the innings before the ninth, not to close. Still, Dotel has been a closer before, and he has pitched in pressure situations.

Pitching coach Jeff Jones said Dotel didn't have any major mechanical or injury problems. He echoed what Dotel said Monday night, which was that Dotel's pitches seemed to consistently break inside on right-handed hitters.

Young seeing action at designated hitter

SEATTLE -- The Tigers began the season without a full-time designated hitter, then tried and failed with Brad Eldred there for their last road series at Yankee Stadium. They're not calling Delmon Young their DH, but that's where he has played ever since he returned to the starting lineup last Saturday.

Tuesday marked Young's fourth consecutive start at DH. He's expected to get a fifth straight nod on Wednesday night against Mariners lefty Jason Vargas. Ryan Raburn is expected to start in left field, with Danny Worth getting the start at second base.

Young went 1-for-11 with a walk and a strikeout in his first three games back.

"I've got to get him hitting," manager Jim Leyland said of Young before Tuesday's game, "but I think it's a better all-around spot for the entire team. We just think, overall, it makes us a better club, but we've got to get him hitting."

Young said when asked about getting his timing back at the plate that he's just trying to help the team win games.