“It wasn’t so much the catch, but the timing of the catch,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “If you make that catch in the first inning, it’s a great catch. If you make it in the ninth, it’s a great catch, but if you make it in the ninth inning of a 1-0 game with one guy on, that makes it a better catch.”
Lee (1-5) didn’t disagree.
“It was out of the park and he brought it back,” the left-hander said. “I felt like I did everything I could to help my team win, but some things are out of my control.”
Verlander pitched a two-hitter for the third shutout and fourth complete game of his career to improve to 2-7 at Progressive Field and 6-10 overall against the Indians.
The right-hander said Leyland’s visit to the mound after a leadoff walk in the ninth gave him a boost.
“That was nice,” Verlander said of not being removed from the game. “I was looking over my shoulder a little bit because my pitch count was up there and we were only up 1-0. It was my game to lose or win.”
“It’s a play for a young man that will toughen him up,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said after the Indians’ fifth loss in seven games. “When you are struggling, the game does everything it can to beat you down.”
Granderson walked with one out, stole second and took third on a groundout by Placido Polanco(notes). Clete Thomas(notes) then hit a slow grounder that Valbuena fielded, but double-clutched on the throw. Thomas hustled down the line to beat the throw for an RBI single.
“The ball just got stuck,” said Valbuena, who sat staring into his locker nearly 20 minutes after the game.
Verlander allowed Victor Martinez’s(notes) double with one out in the seventh and Asdrubal Cabrera’s(notes) one-out single in the first, but Cabrera was thrown out trying to stretch it to a double. The right-hander also walked two: Valbuena in the third and to open the ninth.
Verlander fielded Kelly Shoppach’s(notes) bunt and threw out Valbuena at second. Sizemore, in a 3-for-23 slump, then drove a fastball to center. Granderson timed his leap, snaring the ball with his glove extending well above the 9-foot high wall.
“That’s as big a thrill as making the crowd goes nuts when you hit a walkoff home run,” Granderson said.
Verlander finished it off by fanning Cabrera with his 118th pitch.
Detroit made a few other good defensive plays, too. Shortstop Adam Everett(notes) made a diving backhand stop of a line drive by Shin-Soo Choo(notes) and easily doubled Martinez off second to end the seventh. In the fifth, left fielder Ryan Raburn(notes) made a diving catch of a sinking liner by Ben Francisco(notes).
Otherwise, Verlander was in complete command for the second straight game against Cleveland. He had allowed one run and two hits with 11 strikeouts over seven innings in a 3-1 win over Lee in Detroit on Sunday.
“He might have been better tonight,” Wedge said.
After yielding 24 runs in 21 innings over his first four starts, Verlander has given up two runs and fanned 31 in 23 innings in winning his last three.
Lee gave up seven hits and one run over eight innings, walking two and striking out five. But the left-hander already has two more losses this season than he did last year, when he went 22-3.
Lee has yielded just six runs in his 24 innings over four starts, but received just two runs of support.
Indians SS Jhonny Peralta(notes), in an 8-for-63 (.127) slump, did not play. … Tigers C Gerald Laird(notes), 1 for 12 against Lee was replaced by Dane Sardinha(notes). … Leyland said Magglio Ordonez(notes), who was the DH for the third straight game, may get Saturday off. Leyland plans on loading up on lefty hitters against RHP Fausto Carmona(notes). … Free-agent RHP Luis Vizcaino(notes) threw a bullpen session before the game for Cleveland. “He worked out for us and I’ll talk with (pitching coach) Carl Willis about some things,” Wedge said. Vizcaino has a career record of 34-27 with seven saves and 4.31 ERA for seven teams since 1999. … Attracted by postgame fireworks, the crowd of 27,492 was Cleveland’s largest in 12 games since opening day.