CLEVELAND — The Detroit Tigers finally overcame whatever spell Progressive Field had cast on them for well over a year.
The Indians dropped the third in a three-game series with the Tigers 4-3 last night and fell three games behind them in the American League Central. Detroit had lost 13 straight games in Cleveland dating to last season.
The important thing for the Indians, manager Manny Acta said, is that the Tigers’ lead shrunk during the series.
“I thought it was a great series,” Acta said. “We came into this series trying to shorten up the distance and we did. The goal was to sweep them, but if you can’t sweep them, two out of three’s not bad.”
Detroit starter Justin Verlander (17-5) managed seven innings of three-hit ball and struck out 10 to become the first major leaguer to reach 17 wins this season. He also walked three Indians, two of which came around to score.
“I felt the worst I’ve felt all year,” Verlander said. “But overcoming that to still win, that’s what our job is as a starting pitcher.”
Austin Jackson got aboard on a ground ball leading off the game when third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall’s throw sailed just over the glove of first baseman Carlos Santana. Jackson took second when the ball rolled into the camera well. After advancing to third on a ground out, Jackson scored on a sacrifice fly by Magglio Ordonez to put the Tigers up 1-0.
After the inning, shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera approached Santana in the dugout. Santana’s effort wasn’t to the shortstop’s liking, and the two had to be separated.
“You know it’s just something that happens in baseball,” Santana said of the heated exchange. “ (Cabrera) just talked to me … so next time I don’t do it again. It’s just something that happens (when) teams play together.
Acta didn’t see the skirmish as a fight, but rather as a sign of Cabrera’s leadership.
“I like it, I like it,” Acta said. “That means guys around here want to win. That’s fire.”
The Tigers got to Carmona in the next inning. He recorded the first out before control issues led to a walk and three singles. Three Tigers scored in the inning to put the Indians in a 4-0 hole.
Santana chipped away at the deficit with a home run in the second, helping make up for the play at first, Acta said. Swinging on the first pitch, he planted his 18th homer of the season in the right-center field seats.
Cabrera then cut Detroit’s lead to one run in the third when Verlander looked uncharacteristically wild. Verlander walked two batters on full counts before Cabrera hooked a 1-and-2 pitch to right field with two outs. The double rolled to the wall, allowing both runners to score. But the 4-3 score fans saw in the third would eventually become the final.
Detroit last won in Cleveland on May 8, 2010, a 6-4 victory in which Verlander also took the mound. The Tigers pitcher’s ERA is a tightrope thin 2.35 this year.