DETROIT - The Cleveland Indians learned what the New York Yankees discovered six days earlier: Justin Verlander is back to his dominant form.
Verlander struck out 11, and Curtis Granderson delivered another go-ahead hit as the Detroit Tigers beat the Indians 3-1 yesterday.
Verlander (2-2) allowed one run and two hits in seven innings, finishing up by escaping a bases-loaded, no-out jam.
Last Monday, he fanned nine in seven shutout innings against the Yankees.
"This is certainly the best I've felt in a while," he said. "This is why I worked so hard in the spring to get back to my natural arm angle. It wasn't easy - I felt like I was throwing sidearm for a week when I had only moved it an inch - but it is paying off."
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After winning rookie of the year in 2006 while leading the Tigers to the World Series, Verlander seemed to have an unlimited future when he went 18-6 in 2007 and pitched a no-hitter against Milwaukee.
Last year, though, he finished 11-17. He then allowed 24 runs in 21 innings over his first four starts this season.
"I thought Justin was brilliant," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "I think he answered some questions and answered some critics."
Verlander finished up his 121-pitch outing by escaping a bases-loaded, none-out jam in the seventh with the score tied at 1.
After Shin-Soo Choo walked to start the inning, Mark DeRosa lined a double down the right-field line. Leyland then had Verlander intentionally walk David Dellucci to load the bases.
"A lot of times, they will have you walk someone and then take you out, so I looked over to the dugout," Verlander said. "When I didn't see Jim, I knew I had to focus on getting outs."
Kelly Shoppach popped out to shallow right on Verlander's next pitch, Matt LaPorta took a called third strike in his third major-league at-bat, and Luis Valbuena grounded out.
Indians manager Eric Wedge said he didn't consider hitting for LaPorta or Valbuena, even though both were playing their first major league games of the season.
"If I didn't want them to hit against Verlander in that situation, I wouldn't have started them against him," he said. "They both had good at-bats but didn't get anything out of them."
Dane Sardinha and Granderson started the Detroit seventh with consecutive doubles. Granderson, who hit a go-ahead eighth-inning homer in Saturday's win, later scored on Magglio Ordonez's single through the drawn-in infield.
Cliff Lee (1-4) has already lost more games this season than he did last year, when he went 22-3 and won the AL Cy Young Award. Lee gave up three runs and 12 hits in seven innings and left with a 3.92 ERA - last year, it was 2.54.
"Verlander pitched very well, but it is my job to keep us in games," Lee said. "I was mostly happy with what I did, but it wasn't enough. Sardinha hit a good pitch, so did Granderson, and Magglio hit a bouncer in the right spot."
The Indians put two runners on against Bobby Seay in the eighth, but Joel Zumaya came in to retire Mark DeRosa. Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth for his sixth save.
Detroit missed out on a scoring chance in the first when Placido Polanco was thrown out at the plate on an infield grounder, but the Tigers took a 1-0 lead in the next inning on Brandon Inge's long homer, his eighth.
Asdrubal Cabrera's RBI single - Cleveland's first hit - tied it in the third, but Lee and Verlander didn't allow another run until the seventh.
"This is a really good win for us," Leyland said. "It was dictated by pitching, just like most games."42.33168 -83.04792 ERROR: Template storyimage.ldo not found in theme default for section Pro!
The Cleveland Indians learned what the New York Yankees discovered six days earlier: Justin Verlander is back to his dominant form.