Indians continue to vex Verlander, Tigers

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander is pulled from the game against the Indians during the fifth inning.

Cleveland – More than likely, Justin Verlander is going to get into the Hall of Fame one of these days.

But he would get there a heck of a lot sooner and with less debate if he’d never faced the Indians.

His old nemesis got him again on Saturday, pounding out 11 hits, three home runs and nine runs against him in the Indians' 13-6 win in the second game of the three-game series.

BOX SCORE: Indians 13, Tigers 6

The nine runs were the most earned runs allowed by Verlander in 355 career starts. It stopped a 20-start streak where he allowed three runs or less – dating back to June 26 last year when the Indians scored eight runs and hit four homers off him in 4.2 innings.

“A reset button?” Verlander said when asked what he could take away from this start. “Wish I could go back in time. Not a good one, obviously. Those guys hit me pretty well. It’s kind of been the haves and have-nots. They either hit me really well or I’ve done really well against them going back to last year.

“I wish I could put my finger on what it exactly is. But, I guess I just have to pitch better.”

Verlander was walking a verbal tightrope here. He wants to give credit where it’s due, but he smells a rat.

Jose Ramirez hit a three-run homer while Carlos Santana, who has hit more homers off Verlander than any other opponent (eight), and Lonnie Chisenhall each hit two-run shots.

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Those three – Ramirez, Chisenhall and Santana – were 7-for-9 against Verlander for a combined three home runs and seven RBIs.

But there are suspicions about how well the Indians seems to be locked in on Verlander. Verlander has had those suspicions for a couple of years. Manager Brad Ausmus shares them.

“We went to multiple signs (from catcher James McCann to Verlander) all the time,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “We usually do it when there’s a runner on second base. But we’ve been doing it quite a bit – and not just here but against other teams too early in the season.

“Sign stealing has become kind of a new fad in some clubhouses. They look at video. So we are in a constant state of trying to stay a step ahead of those trying to steal signs.”

The multiple signs were part of the counter-espionage. So were multiple visits to the mound where verbal pitch calls were made. It slowed the pace of the game considerably, and the results were poor.

“We’re not the only team that does that against these guys,” Verlander said. “It’s just one of those things – you cover your bases and make sure you are not allowing anybody to do anything.

“If they are (stealing signs), who knows? You never know. But, it’s kind of one of those things you do to appease the mind.”

Verlander said the Tigers aren’t the only team to suspect the Indians of sign stealing.

“I guess if you go to multiple signs with nobody on base, you are saying, ‘Hey, it’s a little fishy,’” he said. “But you never know. These guys have a really good lineup.”

Verlander and McCann studied video of the Indians’ at-bats for close to an hour after the game. He would not divulge what exactly the focus of the film study was or if it revealed anything.

“Just turn the page,” Verlander said. “I am pleased with where my stuff is at. It’s tough to say don’t dwell on this, but I’ve been around long enough and had enough crappy starts to know you can’t go getting all depressed over one start.

“Maybe this was one of those days when they were all locked in and had a good game plan against me and I wasn’t myself.”

Indians ace Corey Kluber didn’t exactly dominate, either. The Tigers wound up knocking him from the game after 6.1 innings. He gave up six runs and eight hits.

Verlander and Kluber, who finished second and third, respectively, in the Cy Young voting last season, combined to give up 15 runs and 19 hits. Go figure.

“I thought our guys did a nice job fighting back,” Ausmus said. “We were down seven runs and we got back into the game and made it interesting.”

An RBI single by Victor Martinez snapped an 0-for-15 drought, and a 435-foot three-run home run by Justin Upton (3-for-3 with a double) made it 7-3. Jose Iglesias (seven hits in the lat three games) doubled and scored in the fifth to cut it to 7-4.

But Santana rapped a two-out, two-run single off reliever Shane Greene in the bottom of the fifth – the first two inherited runners to score of Greene in his brief career as a reliever.

The Tigers had one last push in them. Kluber walked Ian Kinsler and gave up a single to Nick Castellanos to start the seventh inning.

All-Star lefty Andrew Miller took over and Miguel Cabrera greeted him with an RBI single on the first pitch.

After Martinez lined out to first, Upton topped a slow roller down the first base line and beat it out for an RBI single to make it 9-6.

That was the last gasp.

The Indians put it away with four runs off Anibal Sanchez in the eighth. Sanchez had pitched scoreless innings in the sixth and seventh, working out of a bases-loaded, one-out jam in the sixth.

But in the eighth, Ramirez blasted his second three-run home run of the game. It was his sixth straight hit going back to Friday and the six RBIs were a career high.

Twitter: @cmccosky