indians 11, tigers 5
CLEVELAND — Two-time Cy Young Award winner Johan Santana? Bring him on. Reigning Rookie of the Year and American League All-Star Justin Verlander? Him, too.
Cowering to top-shelf pitching hasn’t been the Indians’ nature this season, as evidenced again by the rude reception they gave Verlander in an 11-5 victory over the Tigers on Thursday night in front of 30,038 fans at Jacobs Field.
With the win, Cleveland has now beaten Verlander twice in two starts, while dealing the same fate to the defending AL Cy Young Award winner Santana.
Less than a week after beating Verlander in Detroit during a three-game sweep of the Tigers at Comerica Park, the Indians took aim at the 24-year-old right-hander again, rapping him for seven earned runs on eight hits through five innings.
“I think he was up (in the strike zone) a little bit more today,” said Indians manager Eric Wedge, who got a winning effort from C.C. Sabathia, who improved to 8-1 with a 3.78 ERA, allowing five runs on 10 hits through 7 1/3 innings. “I don’t think he was as sharp as we’ve seen him in the past.
“He’s tough, but I felt like our guys were just as tough.”
Cleveland hitters touched up Detroit’s ace for a season-high run count, hitting a pair of home runs off Verlander, who walked three and hit three batters. He had not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his previous 10 starts.
Since the Indians were back at Jacobs Field, it meant they were winning, with Cleveland improving its major league-leading home record to 18-4, winning for the 14th time in the last 16 home games.
The Indians are also winning against their division, upping their record to 14-4 versus the Central. It was their fourth straight victory over defending AL champion Detroit, which lost for the sixth time in seven games.
“We’re not playing very good,” said Tigers manager Jim Leyland. “(Cleveland) looks like it was (toying) with us. We’re in a real bad flow right now.”
It was a frustrating night all around for Detroit, which lost dangerous designated hitter Gary Sheffield to an ejection in the fifth inning. Sheffield, who argued a strike call from home plate umpire Greg Gibson during the at-bat in question, was tossed by Gibson after breaking his bat on a grounder to second and firing the handle back towards the umpire.
Though it wasn’t one of his better outings, Sabathia was good enough, winning for the fifth time in six decisions. His eight wins are tied for the major league lead.
Sabathia allowed four of his five runs within the first three innings – three in the third – shutting the Tigers out on two hits over the next four.
“I thought he was better middle to late than he was early,” Wedge said. “I felt like C.C. had to work today, but you’re going to have games like that.”
In addition to the run support, Sabathia also got plenty of assistance from his fielders. Center fielder Grady Sizemore laid out to make a diving catch of a Curtis Granderson drive to the warning track in the second inning, while shortstop Jhonny Peralta and Josh Barfield also made big plays in the field.
“I have no words to explain it,” Sabathia said of the defense. “I couldn’t stop smiling out there.”
Travis Hafner got the Indians going early, hitting his 10th homer of the year – a two-run shot to center – in the opening inning.
The Tigers chose to pitch to a scuffling Hafner and paid for it, with Cleveland’s designated hitter going 2-for-3 with four RBIs on the night.
“When you play with fire, you’re going to get burned,” said catcher Victor Martinez, who pitched in with a homer and three RBIs. “When Hafner is locked in, he’s really dangerous.”
Martinez drove a run in for the seventh straight game.
The Indians put the game away off a familiar face in Tigers reliever Jose Mesa, who allowed four runs in the eighth inning.
WHO: Cleveland vs. Detroit
WHERE: Jacobs Field
PITCHERS: Carmona (6-1, 2.89 ERA) vs. Maroth (3-2, 5.04)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM