Verlander pitches Tigers closer to Central title

BY foxsports • September 25, 2009

Although Justin Verlander and Tigers manager Jim Leyland don't always agree on pitching philosophy, they were both pleased with his latest effort.

Verlander (17-9) struck out 11 in seven innings and Carlos Guillen had three hits and an RBI in Detroit's 6-5 win over Cleveland on Thursday, pushing the Indians within one loss of matching a franchise record for futility.

With the win, Detroit moved three games ahead of the idle Minnesota Twins in the AL's Central Division. The Tigers, who have 10 games remaining, open a three-game series at the Chicago White Sox on Friday night.

Despite all the strikeouts, Leyland thought Verlander was simply throwing at times instead of pitching.

Verlander disagreed.

"There's a lot of times where I've gotten into trouble and just let it go and gotten out of it," Verlander said. "Me and him tend to differ a lot on opinion. I wouldn't say I'm throwing it, I'm just giving it more effort."

Such as the third inning, when the Indians loaded the bases on a pair of hits and a walk. Verlander threw a 101 mph fastball that broke Michael Brantley's bat, yet the ball still sailed into right field for a two-run single. That hit gave the Indians more runs off Verlander than they had in the other 29 innings against him this season combined.

"At the end of the day he's the horse and he got a well-deserved win," Leyland said. "He's a tremendous pitcher."

Fernando Rodney earned his 35th save despite allowing a two-run homer to Shin-Soo Choo in the ninth.

The loss was the Indians' 11th straight, their longest skid since a club-record 12-game streak in 1931. They can match that mark Friday when Baltimore, losers of seven straight, opens a weekend series at Progressive Field.

"Our guys made a good run at it," Indians manager Eric Wedge said. "We played better baseball tonight. We're still short, obviously, on the win side."

Verlander (17-9) entered having lost his last two decisions, but he continued his dominance over the Indians. He struck out at least one batter in six of his seven innings and struck out the side in the fourth.

He won all four of his starts against Cleveland this year, allowing three earned runs in 30 innings (0.90 ERA). The AL leader in strikeouts (256) has registered at least 10 in seven starts this season - and three of those came against the Indians.

Cleveland scored more runs in the third inning Thursday off Verlander than it did in the other 29 innings combined. Two hits and a walk loaded the bases for rookie Michael Brantley, whose broken bat single to right field on a 101 mph fastball gave the Indians a 2-0 lead.

It was their first lead since Sept. 15 at Minnesota, a span of 70 innings. They didn't have long to celebrate.

Detroit's first five batters reached to start the fourth off Carlos Carrasco (0-3), and RBI singles from Brandon Inge, Gerald Laird and Ramon Santiago gave the Tigers a 4-2 lead.

Carrasco has given up at least four runs in each of his four starts since joining the Indians on Sept. 1.

Rodney entered the ninth with a three-run cushion and retired the first two batters before walking Jamey Carroll. Choo followed with his 17th home run and Travis Hafner singled, bringing the winning run to the plate in Jhonny Peralta.

Peralta worked the count full before hitting a sinking liner that tailed away from Inge at third base. Inge made a leaping stab at the ball to end the game.

"I think everybody's heart was in their throat a little bit," Verlander said. "But he (Rodney) has come through all year for us. Whenever a little doubt creeps in, you say he's done it all year for us and he's our guy. Once again, he did it."


Tigers RHP Rick Porcello on Thursday became the fourth pitchers 20-years-old or younger since 1970 to win at least 14 games in a season, according to Elias Sports Bureau. The others were Cincinnati's Don Gullett and Minnesota's Bert Blyleven in 1971 and the Mets' Dwight Gooden in '84 and '85. ... Indians 1B Matt LaPorta (left hip) wasn't in the lineup for the second straight game. Wedge said he might be able to start Friday. ... Peralta's single in the fourth ended an 0-for-26 skid.

share story