Justin Verlander has been outstanding over the last month and is a big reason for the Detroit Tigers’ run to the top of the AL Central.
The Detroit ace will try to win his fourth straight start and notch his 12th victory of the season Thursday night when the Tigers close their series against the Cleveland Indians.
Detroit kept pace with Chicago atop the Central, defeating Cleveland 5-3 on Wednesday. Max Scherzer struck out eight over seven innings while rookie Quintin Berry had three hits and drove in two runs.
The Tigers (53-45) bounced back after they lost Tuesday’s series opener 3-2 to end a five-game winning streak. Detroit has won 14 of 17 to erase a 4 1/2-game deficit in the division.
Wednesday’s victory was the Tigers’ first in five games at Cleveland this year andtheir second over the Indians in eight meetings.
With a chance to move ahead of idle Chicago on Thursday, Detroit has to like its chances with Verlander (11-5, 2.42 ERA) on the mound. The reigning AL MVP and Cy Young Award winner has been dominant recently, winning six of his last seven starts and recording a 1.08 ERA over the last three – all victories.
Verlander’s only mistake in a 4-2 win over the White Sox on Friday was a two-run homer in the third by Alejandro De Aza. He allowed three other hits over eight innings with two walks and six strikeouts and broke Gordon Beckham’s bat on a 100-mph fastball in his final frame.
“I’ve managed Justin long enough to know now that when he smells it, something like that’s got a chance of happening,” manager Jim Leyland said. “I don’t pay much attention to the broken bat, but I do pay attention to the fact that – 99, 100 (mph) in the eighth inning.”
It was the 62nd straight start in which Verlander worked at least six innings – the longest streak since Steve Carlton’s 69-game run from 1979-1982.
The right-hander, however, lost at Cleveland on May 24 and hasn’t fared particularly well at Progressive Field, where he is 6-9 with a 5.79 ERA lifetime.
Still, Verlander has pitched at least six innings in each of his last eight outings in Cleveland.
The Indians (49-49) were unable to win a third straight game Wednesday, going 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position after Derek Lowe gave up three runs in the first two innings.
“We couldn’t do much against Scherzer,” manager Manny Acta said. “He beat us all night with his fastball.”
Cleveland has scored three or fewer runs in seven consecutive games and 10 of the last 11.
The Indians will try to provide more support for scheduled starter Zach McAllister (4-2, 3.21), who suffered his first loss in seven starts Saturday. He gave up three runs on two homers over a career-best 7 2-3 innings in a 3-1 defeat to Baltimore.
The right-hander hasn’t recorded a decision in two career starts against the Tigers despite a 1.59 ERA.