DETROIT – Justin Verlander has been the same old workhorse for the Detroit Tigers, but manager Jim Leyland is still being cautious not to overwork his ace.
The Cleveland Indians, meanwhile, are getting more consistency from Ubaldo Jimenez, who looks to win a third consecutive start Saturday night at Comerica Park.
Verlander (4-2, 1.55 ERA) is having another stellar season, ranking second in the AL in ERA while allowing two or fewer runs in six of his seven outings.
He took a no-hitter into the seventh before allowing a pair of singles in a 9-0 win over Houston on Sunday, exiting after that inning with nine strikeouts and 116 pitches.
Though Verlander has led the majors in pitches per start in each of the last four years and his 109.3 average this season is second to the Los Angeles Angels’ C.J. Wilson (110.3), Leyland didn’t plan to push him much longer even if the no-hitter remained intact.
The right-hander has thrown at least 111 pitches five times – including a season-high 126 against Seattle on April 18 – despite not pitching more than 7 1-3 innings in any outing.
“I would have done what I felt was the best thing to do for Justin Verlander’s career and the Detroit Tigers,” Leyland said. “I would have been caught up in a no-hitter like everyone else and there’s nothing wrong with that. But you can’t do a silly thing.”
Verlander has hit triple digits in pitches in 10 straight starts versus Cleveland, going 6-3 with a 3.04 ERA and two complete games in that span. He’s 4-0 with a 2.00 ERA in his last five home starts against the Indians (18-15), who lost for the second time in 12 games after falling 10-4 on Friday.
Prince Fielder hit a 460-foot solo homer in the third and Miguel Cabrera, leading the majors with 40 RBIs, hit a long three-run shot in the fourth for the Tigers (20-13), who have won six of seven at home.
“When you get RBIs, that means people are on base, obviously,” Leyland said. “We’ve done a good job of that for (Cabrera), and he’s taken advantage of that.”
Cabrera is 12 for 35 (.343) with a homer and three doubles off Jimenez, who will look to win three straight starts for the first time since July 2011.
Jimenez (2-2, 6.37) had a solid performance in his first outing April 3, but he allowed 18 runs over 11 innings while going 0-2 in his following three starts.
The right-hander has been solid over his last two outings, though, giving up three hits in seven innings of a 9-0 win over Kansas City on April 29 before striking out eight in 5 2-3 innings of Monday’s 7-3 victory over Oakland.
“It feels good,” Jimenez told the Indians’ official website. “It feels good to be able to go out there and compete and give your team a chance to win.”
Jimenez’s history at Comerica Park isn’t all that encouraging, though, as he’s gone 1-6 with a 7.45 ERA in seven starts. Cleveland is 8-29 in its last 37 contests in Detroit.
Nick Swisher went 3 for 4 on Friday and is batting .389 with two homers during a five-game hitting streak, but he’s 11 for 61 (.180) with 23 strikeouts against Verlander, including the postseason.
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