CLEVELAND (AP) — Justin Verlander rarely looks like a five-time All-Star, former Cy Young winner and AL MVP when he takes the mound at Progressive Field.
For some reason, in Cleveland he’s a different pitcher.
A beatable one.
Verlander was tagged for four runs in the second inning and outpitched by Trevor Bauer, who handled Detroit’s punishing lineup as the Indians beat the Tigers 6-2 on Tuesday night for their second win over the AL-Central leaders.
Mike Aviles hit a two-run double in the second off Verlander (5-3) when the Indians opened a 5-1 lead. Verlander settled in, but it was too late. He dropped to 9-11 with a 5.36 ERA in Cleveland and the right-hander is 18-15 in his career against the Indians, who have handed him more losses than any other team.
“Their whole lineup was really locked in,” Verlander said. “Those guys hit some easy pitches and some tough ones.”
Bauer (1-1) was recalled earlier in the day for his second start this season, and the right-hander held the AL’s top hitting team to just two runs and seven hits in six-plus innings.
David Murphy homered in the seventh inning for the last-place Indians, who have pulled two games closer to the Tigers and can sweep the three-game series Wednesday.
Torii Hunter and Alex Avila homered for Detroit, which has lost two straight road games after winning 11 in a row.
In the second, the Indians collected three doubles and two singles off Verlander and Michael Bourn caught Detroit’s infield napping and stole third.
The unexpected outburst began with a base-running blunder as Carlos Santana singled off Miguel Cabrera’s glove at first but was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Nick Swisher doubled and Verlander walked Yan Gomes before Aviles lined his two-run double into the gap in left-center.
Bourn followed with a double off the wall in right to score Aviles and Cleveland’s leadoff hitter alertly swiped third without a throw. Asdrubal Cabrera’s RBI single made it 4-1 and brought Tigers pitching coach Jeff Jones out to visit Verlander, who allowed a season-high 11 hits in six innings.
“Really, the first four innings, they really hit the ball well,” Verlander said. “After the second, I just tried to throw up some zeroes, but by that point, the damage had been done.”
Tigers manager Brad Ausmus wasn’t surprised to see the 31-year-old Verlander shake off his poor inning and blank the Indians over the next four to keep it close.
“Justin had a little trouble with his command early, which led to that one bad inning,” Ausmus said. “But he was able contain the damage, which is why he’s Justin Verlander. He’s been very good for years.”
Even though his team was up by four runs, Indians manager Terry Francona knew Verlander wasn’t going to give in.
“We worked him real hard,” Francona said. “He’ll stay out there all day.”
The Indians were anxious to see how the head-strong 23-year-old Bauer, with the unorthodox warm-up routine and blazing fastball, would perform against a lineup featuring the likes of Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Hunter. Bauer has been dominating minor league hitters at Columbus, and had never faced any hitters of this caliber.
He was more than up for the challenge.
“It was tough because we hadn’t seen him before,” Ausmus said. “He throws hard, has a good curve and slider.”
Bauer held Hunter, Cabrera and Martinez to a combined 2 for 8, and he was helped by two double plays – one that ended a Detroit threat in the sixth.
Nick Castellanos was initially ruled safe on a fielder’s choice, which would have put runners at first and third and the Tigers down three. But Indians manager Terry Francona challenged the close play at first, and the umpires reviewed the video and overturned their call, resulting in an inning-ending double play.
NOTES: Cabrera is batting .442 (19 of 43) during his 11-game hitting streak. … Ausmus said the team was never close to adding free-agent SS Stephen Drew, who re-signed with Boston. “It really wasn’t discussed internally,” Ausmus said. “I am very satisfied with my shortstops.” … Detroit has not lost three straight games this season. … RHP Max Scherzer (6-1) faces Zach McAllister (3-4) in Wednesday’s matinee finale.