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08/11/2011 11:28 PM EDT
Verlander stops Indians in Tigers' 4-3 win
DETROIT 4, CLEVELAND 3

By TOM WITHERS
AP Sports Writer

CLEVELAND (AP) -- Someone changed the number plate over Justin
Verlander's locker from 35 to 100, and there was an iced
champagne bottle sitting on a shelf next to his duffel bag.



On a night the Detroit Tigers desperately needed a win,
Verlander notched a special one of his own.



Verlander gave Detroit in the exactly what it needed, becoming
baseball's first 17-game winner and getting his 100th career win
as the division-leading Tigers opened a three-game lead in the
AL Central with a 4-3 win over the second-place Indians on
Thursday night.



Verlander (17-5) allowed three hits and struck out 10 in seven
dominant innings as the Tigers avoided a three-game sweep and
ended a 13-game losing streak in Cleveland. He was also on the
mound for Detroit's previous win at Progressive Field on May 8,
2010.



Verlander downplayed his milestone. In the middle of a playoff
race, he's not thinking about himself.



"It's exciting to get there, but in the big scheme of things it
doesn't mean all that much," he said. "It's not like 100 wins
was ever a goal. There's other things going on here with this
team. Obviously, this win was special because of the other
circumstances surrounding it."



In winning the finale, the Tigers kept some distance over the
Indians, who did trim one game off Detroit's lead over the past
three days. The teams will play 10 more times this season,
including a season-ending three-game series at Comerica Park
from Sept. 26-28.



Tigers manager Jim Leyland expects the Indians to stay around
until the end.



"They're not going anywhere," he said. "They're for real.
They're going to be there. We know that."



Fausto Carmona (5-12) gave the Indians a solid outing, but they
couldn't do enough against Verlander, who despite saying he was
battling himself internally from the outset, added another
performance to a resume that has Cy Young clout.



"I didn't have a good feel," Verlander said. "But I was able to
find enough to get through seven (innings)."



Verlander lobbied Leyland to leave him in for the eighth, to no
avail.



Joaquin Benoit pitched a 1-2-3 eighth and flawless closer Jose
Valverde worked the ninth for his 33rd consecutive save,
breaking the single-season club record he shared with Guillermo
Hernandez, who did it in 1984.



"If he doesn't have a 33 over his locker, he should," Verlander
said of his teammate.



Carlos Santana homered for the Indians, who in winning the
series, kept the pressure on Detroit.



"It was a great series," manager Manny Acta said. "We came in
trying to shorten up the distance and we did. The goal was to
sweep them, but if you can't sweep them, two out of three isn't
bad."



Verlander didn't do it alone. He got some help from center
fielder Austin Jackson, who made a sensational, leaping catch
against the center-field wall in the sixth to preserve Detroit's
4-3 lead.



With a runner on first and one out, Santana sent a drive to
straightaway center. Jackson sprinted back, tracking the ball
with each stride as neared the warning track. He stopped under
the wall, jumped and snagged Santana's deep shot that looked as
if it would have stayed in the park.



Verlander waved his glove in thanks to Jackson, who has made
similar plays this season.



"He seems to make the play seem routine, when it's not,"
Verlander said. "He made a fantastic play once again."



Acta conducted his pregame meeting with reporters in a room
below the Indians' dugout, where it was less noisy. Acta has
lost his voice and could only whisper his comments.



He made it loud and clear, however, that the Indians needed to
be aggressive against Verlander.



"You have to try and get your pitch and not miss it," he said.



He was on the money.



Verlander led 4-0 after the Tigers scored three times in the
second. And with one of baseball's best on the mound, that
deficit must have felt like 40-0 to the Indians.



However, Santana hit a one-out homer, his 18th, in the bottom
half to give Cleveland new life. Then, some uncharacteristic
wildness by Verlander in the third helped the Indians close
within one.



He walked No. 9 hitter Lou Marson with one out and put rookie
Jason Kipnis on with a two-out walk. Asdrubal Cabrera fell
behind 1-2 before pulling a two-run double into the right-field
corner. As Cabrera scooted into second standing up, Verlander
dropped his head in disappointment.



It was the only time he showed emotion. Otherwise, Verlander was
cold and nasty.



"That's not me," Verlander said of the walks, " especially not
me this year."



He took the mound with a 1-0 lead after the Tigers scored an
unearned run in their first at-bat.



Jackson led off with a routine grounder, but third baseman
Lonnie Chisenhall's throw sailed over Santana's head and into
the photographer's pen. Jackson moved up on a groundout and
scored when Magglio Ordonez hit a liner toward the gap that
right fielder Kosuke Fukudome snagged with a diving catch.



After the third out, Cabrera and Santana had a heated exchange
in the dugout and had to be separated by Carmona and others.



Acta wasn't upset his players squared off.



"I like it," he said. "It means people around here want to win.
Asdrubal confronted Carlos about not catching the throw. Carlos
didn't like the way he talked to him. That's fire. I like it.
People care. That's all I can ask for."



NOTES: Verlander is the 16th Detroit pitcher to get 100 wins.
He's also the fastest to do it since Denny McLain in 1969. ..
Verlander is just 12-11 in his career against Cleveland, but
he's 8-1 with a 2.65 ERA in his last 11 starts vs. the Indians.
... Indians OF Michael Brantley missed his second straight game
with a sore right wrist. ... The Tigers were without OF Brennan
Boesch. He has a sprained right thumb and likely will miss at
least a few games. ... The Indians open a three-game series
Friday with Minnesota. Cleveland's Justin Masterson (9-7), who
pitched just two innings before being pulled after a 2-hour rain
delay on Tuesday, will come back and start on short rest against
Carl Pavano (6-9).

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