An extra day of rest to face one of the league's worst clubs might not be as beneficial as it appears, though.
Verlander takes the mound as visiting Detroit opens a three-game series with the Cleveland Indians on Friday night.
The Tigers (75-67) were primed to force a tie atop the Central with the Chicago White Sox on Thursday after winning the previous two games, but rain forced the teams' final showdown of the season to be pushed back to Monday.
Manager Jim Leyland said he hopes his club can continue its winning ways in order to take advantage of potential Chicago defeats - something it hasn't done recently.When (the White Sox have) lost and we're not (playing them), we haven't been able to take advantage of that," Leyland said. "Sometime over the next couple weeks, we're gonna have to do that."
Verlander (13-8, 2.91 ERA) struggled in his last outing, giving up six runs - including four in the first - in six innings of a 6-1 loss to the Los Angeles Angels on Saturday.
"Right off the bat, it just wasn't his night," Leyland said. "A lot of teams plan on going right after him early. They just ambushed him, and it worked."
The right-hander has dropped both of his starts versus the Indians this season after going 9-1 with a 2.89 ERA in his previous 12 outings against them. He allowed two runs in eight innings in a tough-luck 2-1 loss May 24, then gave up five runs in seven innings of a 5-3 defeat July 26.
Additionally, Verlander is 2-4 with a 3.84 ERA in 10 starts when pitching after five days of rest.
While Detroit seemingly has a favorable matchup this weekend, it dropped two of three to the Indians at home from Sept. 3-5, and is only 6-9 against the division rivals.
Cleveland (60-84) ended a five-game losing streak Thursday by scoring three runs in the ninth to rally for a 5-4 win at Texas. Ezequiel Carrera led off the inning with a homer, and Jason Kipnis added a two-run shot.
It marked a bright spot in an otherwise disappointing season for the Indians, who won for just the sixth time in 28 games."In the second half we've been struggling," Kipnis said. "To end a road trip with a win in the last game takes a lot of the pressure off. It's better than going back (home) with our shoulders down and wondering why we lost another one."
Corey Kluber will look to help Cleveland win back-to-back games for only the second time in the last month.
Kluber (1-3, 5.26) picked up his first career win against the Tigers on Sept. 3, giving up two runs in six innings of Cleveland's 3-2 victory. He couldn't sustain that momentum, though, allowing five runs - four earned - in 3 2-3 innings while letting a 4-0 lead slip away in an 8-7 loss to Minnesota on Sunday.
"The guys did a great job early of giving me a lead," Kluber said. "I didn't do a good job of making it stand up."
The Indians have won five of six between these teams in Cleveland this season.
|September 11, 2012||Ryan Raburn||15-Day DL||Strained right quadriceps|
|August 23, 2012||Doug Fister||Day-to-Day||Tightness in right groin|
|August 23, 2012||Miguel Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right ankle soreness|
|August 01, 2012||Ryan Raburn||15-Day DL||Sprained right thumb|
|August 01, 2012||Ryan Raburn||15-Day DL||Sprained right thumb|
|July 07, 2012||Drew Smyly||15-Day DL||Right intercostal strain|
|September 13, 2012||Michael Brantley||Day-to-Day||Sore left pectoral muscle|
|September 09, 2012||Asdrubal Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Left game - sore right wrist|
|August 27, 2012||Roberto Hernandez||Day-to-Day||Left game - sprained right ankle|
|August 13, 2012||Josh Tomlin||60-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|August 13, 2012||Jason Kipnis||Day-to-Day||Stiff neck|
|August 06, 2012||Travis Hafner||Day-to-Day||Back soreness|
CLEVELAND (AP) -- Justin Verlander 's only mistake may have been trying to chest bump Prince Fielder .
"I'm not a little guy," Verlander joked of his encounter with the extra-large Fielder. "But I've seen him take a couple of guys out like it was football."
Verlander survived, and the Tigers didn't lose any ground in the AL Central.
Verlander pitched seven shutout innings, getting huge defensive plays from Fielder and Miguel Cabrera to snuff Cleveland threats, and Detroit stayed within one game of first-place Chicago with a 4-0 win over the downward spiraling Indians on Friday night.
Coming through the way he almost always does, Verlander (14-8) allowed six hits and delivered another dominant performance. But if it wasn't for diving stops by Fielder and Cabrera, big men best known for their powerful bats, the right-hander could have been in trouble.
"Game-saving plays," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "Everybody's going to talk about defense, but those guys made terrific plays on the corners."
Detroit jumped to a 4-0 lead after two innings against Corey Kluber (1-4), who managed to hang around for five innings but couldn't overcome two shaky ones.
The Indians, who were within 3 1-2 games of first when they rallied to beat Verlander on July 26, are 10-36 since that win and 16-44 since the All-Star break.
"I don't think anybody's thinking that far back," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "We're trying to keep things present."
Verlander had been scheduled to pitch Thursday in Chicago against White Sox ace Chris Sale . But rain postponed the series finale and marquee pitching matchup, pushing the AL's reigning Cy Young winner back. The one-day delay didn't have much affect on the Tigers' top gun, who on a chilly, October-like night, pitched as if it was the postseason.
Verlander needed some help, though, and got it from the unlikely pair of Fielder and Cabrera, beefy corner infielders who both came up golden with their gloves.
The Indians didn't get a runner to second until the fifth, when Casey Kotchman blooped a leadoff single and went to third on Lonnie Chisenhall 's double.
Cleveland was threatening, but Verlander hardly seemed frightened.
He got Matt LaPorta on a weak tapper in front of the plate for the first out, then struck out Ezequiel Carrera , setting him up with a 99 mph fastball for strike two and then locking him up with an 89 mph change-up.
Jason Donald followed with a hard grounder down the first-base line that Fielder stopped with a dive that carried him from the infield dirt onto the grass in foul territory. From his knees, Fielder tossed the ball to Verlander, who raced over to cover first. As Fielder got back to his feet, Verlander gave his 275-pound-plus teammate a congratulatory bump.
"It wasn't hit hard, but those are the balls that can create into chaos because it got right down the line," Fielder said. "I was glad I was able to get it."
In the sixth, the Indians put runners on second and third with one out. Verlander got Russ Canzler to fly out, and Cabrera ended the inning by making a backhanded diving stop on Kotchman's line-hugging smash before bouncing up and throwing to first for the final out.
Verlander raised his right fist in the air and held it there as he waited in the middle of the infield to swat Cabrera on the backside as he ran to the Tigers' dugout.
"That's a huge pickup," Verlander said of the two stops. "When you're out there on the mound and you're battling and one of your teammates makes a play like that, that's teamwork at its best. Obviously, I was pretty pumped up about it."
After winning just once in his past six starts, Verlander came in with a season-high 2.91 ERA. All he needed was an outing against the inept Indians to drop it back down to 2.82.
The defending AL MVP lost his two previous starts to Cleveland this season, including the July 26 game when he gave up four runs in the seventh and lost 5-3. Verlander had also been winless on the road since July 15, going 0-3 with a 6.46 ERA in five outings.
Verlander didn't ease into anything. The right-hander fired several 97 mph fastballs in the first, which he ended by snagging Carlos Santana 's comebacker and starting a 1-6-3 double play.
Verlander took the mound with a 2-0 lead after the Tigers strung together four two-out singles off Kluber.
With two outs, Cabrera singled up the middle and Fielder followed with a hard shot to short right that ate up second baseman Jason Kipnis , who was playing deep on an overshift. Delmon Young 's single made it 1-0, and Brennan Boesch hit an RBI single.
The Tigers went up 4-0 in the second on Austin Jackson 's RBI double and Cabrera's run-scoring single.
Notes: Leyland can't return to Progressive Field without thinking about when he managed Florida in the 1997 World Series, when snow fell before Game 3. "I'll never forget it," he said. "I was hitting fungoes during batting practice and they were playing `Jingle Bells."' ... Since 2008, Cabrera is batting .338 (113 for 334) with 22 homers and 76 RBIs in 86 games against Cleveland. ... Donald was hit on the right wrist by Verlander in the seventh. The Indians said X-rays are pending.