CLEVELAND (AP) — The Detroit Tigers are in the thick of a pennant race, but Justin Verlander is still stuck searching for his past dominant self.
Verlander (12-12) gave up seven runs (six earned) in 6 2-3 innings as Danny Salazar (6-6) pitched his first career shutout and the Cleveland Indians beat the Detroit Tigers 7-0 on Wednesday night.
Verlander, who struck out seven and allowed nine hits, had won his last two starts. The right-hander has been dealing with a sore shoulder and his 4.80 ERA is the second-worst ERA of his career.
“Changeup wasn’t very good tonight,” Verlander said. “Really I’d say that was pretty much the only pitch, though. Everything else felt pretty good. The arm strength felt better than it has the last two games. I felt like it was better the entire game, which is a good sign for me.”
Ausmus echoed the sentiment that Verlander pitched better than what the box score indicates.
“There was a couple balls that found holes, they hit a couple balls hard as well,” he said. “At the end he cranked it up quite a bit but it just didn’t work for us tonight. I didn’t think he pitched as poorly as the line score shows.”
Carlos Santana hit a two-run homer in the first. Cleveland scored two more in the fourth on Lonnie Chisenhall’s double and Yan Gomes’ bloop single.
Michael Bourn’s RBI single and rookie Jose Ramirez’s run-scoring double finished Verlander in the seventh.
Verlander pitched for the first time since nude photos of him and model girlfriend Kate Upton were allegedly hacked from an online account and posted on the Internet. The right-hander told reporters Tuesday that he wouldn’t comment on his personal life and his focus was on helping the Tigers make the playoffs.
Detroit, which won the first two games of the series, trails Kansas City by 1 1-2 games in the AL Central.
No matter what Verlander did, it wouldn’t have mattered against the surging Salazar, who has pitched 17 consecutive scoreless innings. After giving up two consecutive hits in the fourth on Wednesday, Salazar retired 17 of the last 20 batters he faced. He struck out nine and didn’t walk a batter.
“Salazar just pitched well,” Ausmus said. “He was throwing mid-to-upper 90s the entire game. Overpowered us at times. I think this is just one of those nights that we tip our caps to him and the Indians.”
TO DH OR NOT DH
Victor Martinez played first base for the third straight game and Miguel Cabrera (sore right ankle) was the designated hitter. While Ausmus wants to keep Cabrera off his feet as much as possible, he knows he can’t play the 35-year-old Martinez at first on a long-term basis. “Maybe he’s enjoying it (but) he can’t be out there every day,” Ausmus said.
J.D. Martinez, who had the game-winning three-homer on Tuesday night to give Detroit a 4-2 victory, struck out four times Wednesday.
“That happens,” Ausmus said. “The old adage is today’s hero is tomorrow’s goat. It goes both ways. Yesterday’s goat could be tomorrow’s hero.”
Tigers: C Alex Avila was held out of the lineup after being hit in the mask by a foul ball Tuesday. “I just thought it was probably smarter to not throw him back there and have him take another shot within 24 hours of the previous one,” Ausmus said.
Tigers: RHP Max Scherzer (15-5) will start the finale of the four-game set for Detroit as the Tigers go for the series win.