Detroit (32-26) hopes Verlander can continue the recent dominance by the team's starting pitchers, while Cleveland (30-29) gets a chance to end its struggles and chip into the Tigers' 2 1/2-game lead in the AL Central.
Tigers starters have gone at least six innings in each of the last 13 games while allowing more than three runs once, posting a 2.49 ERA and 114 strikeouts over 94 innings - though the team is 6-7 over that span.
Detroit received another quality outing Thursday from Max Scherzer , who yielded one run across seven innings in a 5-2 home victory over Tampa Bay.
"We feed off each other, but we've also pushed the bar so dang high," Scherzer said. "Everybody wants to try to match that."
The Tigers won three of the season's first five meetings against Cleveland, with Jimenez earning the win after holding them to one run and three hits in six innings as the Indians beat Verlander 7-6 on May 11. Verlander allowed four runs and walked a season-high five over five innings.
Jimenez (4-3, 4.83 ERA) and Verlander (7-4, 3.70) were hit hard in an 11-7 Detroit win May 22 that saw the pair give up 11 runs and 17 hits over nine innings, with the Tigers' right-hander emerging with the victory and Jimenez suffering the loss.
Both have recovered for two solid outings since. Verlander notched two wins while giving up six runs and striking out 18 over 14 innings and Jimenez has been even stingier, surrendering two runs and eight hits over his last 15 innings.
"Right now, he knows he can pitch in the zone and get outs," Cleveland manager Terry Francona told the team's official website after Jimenez went eight innings in a 5-0 win over the Rays on Saturday.
The Indians could use another strong outing from Jimenez, having dropped four in a row after a three-game sweep at Yankee Stadium. They fell 6-4 on Wednesday for their eight straight road defeat.
Cleveland's 4-12 stretch follows an 18-4 surge that saw it take a brief hold of first place.
"It's kind of a down time for us right now," said Nick Swisher , who is 1 for 24 over the last seven games. "But I feel like we were in every ballgame. Just kind of one hit here or there turns things around. So, I feel like we're kind of on the doorstep right now. We just need to break through it."
Miguel Cabrera , who went 3 for 4 on Thursday and drove in his major league-leading 66th run, has hit safely in 25 of his last 28 games against the Indians with 12 home runs, 35 RBIs and an OPS of 1.187. He's 14 for 40 (.350) when facing Jimenez.
Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder comes in on an 11-game hitting streak in which he's batting .356, while Cleveland left fielder Michael Brantley is 13 for 29 off of Verlander - his most at-bats against any pitcher.
Jimenez has seen mixed results in eight starts against Detroit since the beginning of last season, going 3-3 with a 4.37 ERA.
Verlander has struggled throughout his career versus the Indians, posting a 4.68 ERA while amassing a 15-14 record in 32 starts. Those are his most starts and losses against any team, and the ERA is his highest versus any club he's faced more than twice.
The Tigers have won 29 of the last 38 meetings in Detroit, though they've dropped three of the last four series there.
|June 04, 2013||Asdrubal Cabrera||15-Day DL||Right quadriceps strain|
|June 03, 2013||Asdrubal Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Left game - strained right quad|
|May 30, 2013||Ryan Raburn||Day-to-Day||Left game - lower right leg cramp|
|May 27, 2013||Chris Perez||15-Day DL||Right shoulder soreness|
|May 26, 2013||Chris Perez||Day-to-Day||Left game - Right shoulder discomfort|
|May 01, 2013||Vinnie Pestano||15-Day DL||Right elbow tendinitis|
|May 12, 2013||Austin Jackson||15-Day DL||Strained right hamstring|
|April 26, 2013||Phil Coke||15-Day DL||Left groin strain|
|April 26, 2013||Phil Coke||15-Day DL||Left groin strain|
|April 21, 2013||Octavio Dotel||Day-to-Day||Elbow inflammation|
|April 20, 2013||Octavio Dotel||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|April 09, 2013||Victor Martinez||Day-to-Day||Lacerated right thumb|
DETROIT (AP) -- Justin Verlander walked off the mound after his seventh inning of work, and manager Jim Leyland was waiting for him at the bottom of the steps, ready to give the Detroit ace the customary handshake that would signify the end of the right-hander's night.
So Verlander took a detour, cutting across to his right and using a different entrance to the dugout.
"I tried to circumvent the system," Verlander said. "I tried to go the other way and sneak around him, but he was too quick for me."
Leyland met Verlander at the bottom of that other set of stairs, and that was that. The Tigers went on to a 7-5 win over the Cleveland Indians on Friday night in the opener of this three-game series. Verlander allowed three runs in seven innings, and Jose Valverde held on through a shaky ninth to give Detroit a 3 1/2-game lead over the Indians atop the AL Central.
Victor Martinez homered and had three hits for the Tigers, and Torii Hunter added three hits of his own. Detroit led 5-0 before Cleveland scored three runs in the fifth off Verlander.
That was all the Indians could manage against the Tigers' ace in losing their fifth straight game. Verlander (8-4) allowed seven hits on the night. He walked two and struck out six.
As for his little end-around of Leyland? The Detroit manager didn't sound pleased about it.
"You might think that was comical, but I don't think that was comical at all," he said.
Verlander seemed surprised that Leyland was upset.
"I wasn't trying to play a joke on him. I just wanted to stay in the game," Verlander said. "He always stands there and sticks out his hand so I figured maybe if I snuck around him he'd let me go back out there."
Joaquin Benoit pitched the eighth for Detroit, and Jose Valverde came on with a four-run lead in the ninth. He allowed solo homers to Jason Giambi and Drew Stubbs , but Nick Swisher grounded out with a man on second to end it.
"They were two split-fingers, and they just golfed them. That happens," Leyland said. "But the key to that was that he didn't walk anybody. I'm happy with that."
Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4) allowed five runs - three earned - in three-plus innings.
Cleveland lost its ninth straight road game.
Detroit is trying for its third straight division title, and the Indians have emerged as the top early threat from the rest of the AL Central. Jimenez beat Verlander in Detroit on May 11, and Cleveland took two of three in that series.
But the Tigers swept a two-game series in Cleveland later that month, the start of a stretch in which the Indians have lost 13 of 17.
Martinez opened the scoring in the second with a solo homer to right, his fifth of the year. Detroit then managed two more runs without hitting the ball out of the infield.
Jhonny Peralta walked and Brayan Pena grounded into a force play. Then Ramon Santiago hit a groundball to first, and Swisher tried to make a tough throw to second to get the lead runner. The ball got away for an error on Swisher, and Avisail Garcia walked to load the bases.
After Andy Dirks struck out, Hunter hit an RBI single, and Miguel Cabrera walked to force in another run.
"I felt great in the first inning, but it was gone in the second inning and I started trying to do too much to get someone out," Jimenez said. "It went the other way in a hurry."
Garcia doubled to lead off the fourth and scored on a single by Dirks. Hunter singled to chase Jimenez, and Cabrera bounced into a double play, bringing another run home to make it 5-0.
Verlander hasn't allowed fewer than three runs in any of his last six starts, but the damage was limited to the fifth inning Friday. Michael Bourn hit an RBI single, and Jason Kipnis drove in two more runs with a bases-loaded double that Hunter was unable to catch against the wall in right.
Cleveland, which is without shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (right quad strain), could get no closer. Swisher made another error in the fifth, which put men on first and third with nobody out. A double play grounder by Pena made it 6-3.
Pena added an RBI single in the seventh.
NOTES: Detroit's Prince Fielder had his hitting streak snapped at 11 games. ... Hunter was hitless in his last 14 at-bats before starting Friday's game with a double and two singles. ... Detroit's Rick Porcello (2-3) takes on Cleveland's Justin Masterson (8-4) on Saturday.