CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – The Indians over the course of the last three days sent a simple message to last seasons AL Central champion Detroit Tigers.
We’re for real.
The Tribe beat the best the Tigers had to offer Thursday, as they handed last years AL Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander (5-2) his 2nd loss of the season, beating Detroit 2-1.
Justin Masterson (2-3), who had scuffled all season for the Indians, outpitched Verlander, allowing just one run on five hits over seven innings, walking five and recording four strikeouts.
Chris Perez recorded his 16th save of the season by pitching the 9th, and for the 3rd straight day came out to a standing ovation.
The win puts the Indians at a season-high eight games over .500 at 26-18, six games over the Tigers in the AL Central, who fall to 20-24.
The Indians struck first off Verlander with a solo homer to deep right for Shin Soo-Choo in the first to give the Tribe a quick 1-0 lead.
It was the 3rd homer and 16th RBI of the season for Choo.
The Tigers responded with a run in the third, as Miguel Cabrera drove in a run with a ground ball to short to tie the game at one.
Consecutive bloop singles with two outs gave the Indians a 2-1 lead in the fourth.
First, Michael Brantley dropped a single into short right and stole second before Jose Lopez placed one in front of right fielder Brennan Boesch, who didn’t bother making a throw to the plate.
Frustration has been building for the Tigers, who were expected to run away with the division but find themselves trailing two teams.
Leyland was ejected after coming to the defense of first-base coach Tom Brookens, who got into an animated argument with first-base ump Paul Emmel. Brookens appeared to be contesting that Masterson had balked on a previous pitch and he gestured wildly with his arms before being joined by Leyland, who got out only a few choice words before Emmel had heard enough.
Last season, Verlander owned the Indians. He won all three starts against Cleveland, and came in 9-1 against them in his previous 12 starts. The right-hander gave up two runs, six hits, walked one threw a 102 mph fastball on his 116th pitch as if to remind the Indians that they’ll see him again.
And the Indians are just fine with that.
Friday the Indians start a weekend series in Chicago against the second-place White Sox. Friday night will see Jeanmar Gomez (3-2, 3.19) vs lefty John Danks (3-4, 5.70) at 8:10pm.
(Associated Press contributed to this story)