The Indians spotted Detroit an early 4-0 lead tonight, then got back in the game on Carlos Santana’s 18th homer and a two-run double by Asdrubal Cabrera to make it 4-3 in the third, but that was all of the offense off of Justin Verlander (17-5), Joaquin Benoit and Jose Valverde as the Tigers won for the first time in Cleveland in 14 tries to increase their lead to three games over the Tribe.
Cleveland was held to three hits, but came within a couple of feet of taking the lead in the bottom of the sixth when Santana drove Austin Jackson to the wall in center with one on and one out, where Jackson made a great catch on a ball that looked as if it might hit the yellow stripe.
That was really the last chance the Indians had, as Verlander worked seven innings and Benoit and Valverde each pitched a perfect inning to close it out.
Valverde stayed perfect on the year in save opportunities with save number 33.
Fausto Carmona (5-12) had a rough beginning to the game, but seemed to be galvanized by a line drive into a double play in the third which kept Detroit at four runs, and Fausto ended up working seven innings, allowing four runs (three earned) on seven hits, with two walks and six K’s.
Speaking of strikeouts, the Tigers rung up 13 Indians, including 10 from Verlander.
Detroit scored in the first without the benefit of a hit, when Jackson reached second on an error leading off the game, moved to third on a grounder, and scored on a sac fly from Magglio Ordonez.
The Tigers made it 4-0 in the second on run-scoring singles from Alex Avila and Wilson Betemit (on a ball deflected into the outfield by Carmona), and a bunt for an RBI by Jackson.
Santana’s homer to right-center brought Cleveland within 4-1 in the second, and Cabrera’s two-out double in the third brought the Indians to the cusp of tying the game. But Travis Hafner fanned to end the inning — and the scoring for this night.
So the Tribe takes two-of-three from the Tigers and ends a stretch of ten straight games against the three American League division leaders at 5-5 (with seven of those games having been on the road).
So yes, a loss is a loss is a loss. But with Verlander, fighting back and making a game of it, even with a limited offensive production, is at least a moral victory.
Now Minnesota comes to town for three games this weekend, and folks, the Indians need to win this series against the Twins. Remember that the Tribe lost two-of-three at home to last-place Kansas City before beginning this tough 10-game stretch.
Well, the Twins are in fourth place, 10 games out and 13 games under .500. There is no excuse — after the fine baseball the Tribe played against the leaders of every division — for Cleveland not to keep their focus and take care of business vs. the always-pesky Twins.
So we will shake this one off, tip our caps to the possible Cy Young Award winner this year…and hopefully get ’em tomorrow.