Tigers 4, Indians 1

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CLEVELAND (AP)—Justin Verlander possesses the confidence of a crafty veteran and the swagger of a hard-throwing rookie.

It’s a combination the Cleveland Indians and every team he’s faced the last seven weeks couldn’t beat.

Verlander outpitched C.C. Sabathia, and the Detroit Tigers beat the Indians 4-1 Wednesday to continue their domination of the AL Central.

Verlander (13-4) struck out a career-high eight and allowed one run and five hits in 6 2-3 innings. He didn’t walk anyone and is 6-0 in his last eight starts with a 1.72 ERA.

“He’s confident, halfway cocky, which is good,” teammate Craig Monroe said. “Maybe that gives him the edge.”

Magglio Ordonez hit a two-run double in the sixth inning to break up the scoreless pitcher’s duel.

“Going against C.C. I knew runs were going to be scarce most likely,” Verlander said. “Thankfully, our guys were able to cross the plate four times and I shut them down for the most part.”

Detroit improved to 30-13 against the AL Central and has the best winning percentage (.698) of any club against its division.

The Tigers have won five straight series and had to rebound from Tuesday night’s 12-7 loss to do it.

“I thought we had some of the best at-bats we’ve had of the year today. I’m so proud of them,” manager Jim Leyland said. “We got our brains beat out (Tuesday) night and they come right back and win against a real tough pitcher.”

Verlander is tied with Josh Beckett and Curt Schilling of Boston, and Toronto’s Roy Halladay for the major league lead in wins.

His only mistake came against rookie Joe Inglett, who hit his first career home run on a 1-0 pitch with two outs in the seventh.

Leyland then quickly pulled the 23-year-old Verlander after 97 pitches.

“He was done,” Leyland said. “If I’d have known the guy was going to hit a home run, I would have taken him out before then. He was done.”

Todd Jones pitched a perfect ninth for his 27th save in 30 chances.

Verlander retired nine straight before giving up singles to Casey Blake and Inglett to start the fifth. He struck out Jhonny Peralta and got Ramon Vazquez to hit into a double play to get out of his only jam.

“They’ve got electric stuff. Electric,” said Jason Michaels, of Verlander and Joel Zumaya, who pitched 1 1-3 scoreless innings. “It felt like a thousand miles an hour. Just blowing me away. I was just trying to get something on it.”

Sabathia (7-7) went seven innings, giving up four runs and nine hits.

One of his three walks went to Marcus Thames, who was 0-for-19, when he batted in the sixth inning. Sabathia then gave up a double to Monroe, and Ordonez followed with his team-leading 69th and 70th RBIs. He scored on Brandon Inge’s double play for a 3-0 Detroit lead.

“We put some hits together and got three runs,” Ordonez said. “You don’t get many chances against C.C. You have to take advantage.”

Sabathia has lost three straight starts and five of eight. In his last start, the left-hander was removed by manager Eric Wedge after 42 pitches in a loss against Minnesota. Sabathia was then yelled at by plate umpire Chris Guccione and was ejected.

Sabathia got out of trouble in the fourth and fifth with inning-ending double plays, but lost his control in the three-run sixth.

“It’s a good lineup and I got the watered-down version,” Sabathia said. “No Dmitri (Young). No Pudge (Ivan Rodriguez).”

Placido Polanco’s RBI single in the seventh made it 4-0.

Inglett, who has seen increased playing time at second due to an injury to Ronnie Belliard, got a few slaps on the back in the Indians dugout after making it 4-1 in the bottom half on a 392-foot shot that landed in the first few rows of seats in right.

Grady Sizemore reached second on an error to lead off the game when Monroe ran in front of Omar Infante in left-center and dropped a fly ball.

The Indians, who scored seven runs off Kenny Rogers in the first inning Tuesday, looked they could have another fast start. But Verlander easily retired the next three batters, striking out Victor Martinez to end the threat.

“Just a tremendous effort,” Leyland said. “When that happened, you’ve got to feel like you’re behind 1-0. Fortunately, he pitched out of it.”


The Tigers’ last series loss came when they dropped two of three in Oakland from July 3-5. … Cleveland is 4-9 against the Tigers. … Verlander lost his major league debut at Jacobs Field on July 4, 2005. … Detroit leads the majors with 35 road wins. … Belliard missed his sixth straight game with a strained left hamstring. … Verlander struck out seven on four occasions this season.

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