Verlander wins 17th; Tigers avoid Indians sweep

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, Last Updated: 12:38 AM ET

Justin Verlander did just enough to assume the major-league lead in wins, while Detroit put together an early burst of offense to clip Cleveland, 4-3, in the completion of a three-game series between these AL Central pennant hopefuls.

"They're not going to go away," said Tigers manager Jim Leyland of Cleveland. "They're going to be there with us. I've been really impressed with their veterans. They can catch the ball and hit as good as anybody."

Verlander (17-5) snapped a tie with Yankees left-hander CC Sabathia, picking up the win after allowing three runs on three hits and three walks while fanning 10 over seven innings.

The right-hander posted his fifth straight positive decision and eclipsed the double-digit mark in strikeouts for the fourth time in 2011. He also achieved his 100th career victory.

Jose Valverde turned in a quick ninth inning to remain a perfect 33-for-33 in save situations, setting a franchise record for consecutive saves in one season. Willie Hernandez held the original mark of 32 in a row during the 1984 campaign -- the year of the club's last World Series title.

Wilson Betemit tallied two hits and an RBI for the Tigers, who opened up a three-game bulge over the Tribe and avoided a sweep. Austin Jackson, Magglio Ordonez and Alex Avila also drove in runs for the visitors.

Asdrubal Cabrera hit a two-run double for the Indians, who have dropped five of their last nine.

Fausto Carmona (5-12) surrendered seven hits and four runs -- three earned -- with six strikeouts over seven full frames in defeat.

Detroit staked Verlander to an early edge, picking up a run in the first inning. Jackson reached second on Indians third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall's high throw to first, moved to third on a groundout and scored on an Ordonez sacrifice fly.

The Tigers tacked on three more in the second. Jhonny Peralta singled and Carlos Guillen walked ahead of consecutive RBI singles by Avila and Betemit, and Jackson surprised both Carmona and the Cleveland infield with a successful squeeze bunt up the third-base line to plate Avila for a 4-0 game.

Carlos Santana answered with a one-out homer to right in the home half, then in the third a pair of walks preceded Cabrera's two-run double which pulled the Tribe within 4-3.

Jackson then robbed Santana of a potential extra-base hit in the sixth, leaping with his back to the wall in center to snag the deep drive.

"Yeah he made a good play, no question about it," Leyland added about the grab.

Verlander stranded a runner on second in the Cleveland fifth, then worked around a one-out walk in the sixth. He completed his outing by setting down the side in order in the seventh.

This was the toughest internal battle I had all year," Verlander admitted. "It was probably the worst I felt overall, but I was able to convince 'skip' to keep me out there. But this is why we picked up these guys, they can hold it down once I'm done."

Joaquin Benoit fanned two in a scoreless eighth, then Valverde worked his magic in the final frame.

The Dominican righty fanned Travis Hafner looking, induced Santana into a pop out to second then capped the night by getting Kosuke Fukudome to ground sharply to second.

"This was a great series. We came in trying to shorten up the distance and we did," noted Indians manager Manny Acta. "The goal was to sweep it, but if we couldn't do that, two out of three isn't bad. Our guys played well the whole time."

Game Notes

Verlander reached the century mark in his 191st start with Detroit, the fastest for any Tigers pitcher since Denny McLain did it in his 181st start in June of 1969...Detroit snapped a 13-game losing streak in northern Ohio dating back to May 8, 2010...Hernandez, acquired from Philadelphia during '84 spring training, finished 9-3 with a 1.92 ERA and 32 saves en route to winning the AL Cy Young and MVP honors...Prior to the contest, the Indians announced that Progressive Field will host a college hockey game between CCHA rivals Ohio State and Michigan State on January 15, 2012. 


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