Tigers turn to Verlander for finale with Indians

The Detroit Tigers' domination over the Cleveland Indians this season is a big reason why they own a comfortable advantage atop the AL Central.

Justin Verlander and the Tigers look to close out their season series with the Indians on Sunday afternoon with a sweep of a three-game set.

Detroit has won seven straight and 15 of its 18 meetings with Cleveland this season. That has helped the Tigers open up an 8 1/2-game lead over the struggling Indians for the top spot in the division.

They'll look for the sweep today behind Verlander, who hopes to find the win column for the first time in five starts, having lost a pair of decisions and pitching to a 5.00 earned run average since beating Cleveland on Aug. 6.

The strikeouts have been there for Verlander over his winless stretch, with 24 over 27 innings, but he has also been touched for five homers and never recovered after a rough first inning on Tuesday versus Oakland.

The righty needed 44 pitches to get through the opening frame and ended up allowing five runs -- three earned -- on four hits and three walks over his five-inning outing. The loss dropped Verlander to 12-10 with a 3.73 earned run average in 28 starts, the first time he has reached double-digits in setbacks since an 11-17 campaign in 2008.

"I don't feel fatigued. At my age it's not like I'm dropping velocity," the 30-year-old Verlander said. "I think it's more of a mechanical thing than anything."

Verlander is 3-1 with a 4.32 ERA in four starts versus the Indians this year, throwing eight innings of one-run ball with seven strikeouts to win in Cleveland on Aug. 6.

Winless since his MLB debut in July, Danny Salazar gets the call today for the Indians.

The right-hander picked up a win over Toronto on July 11, but has gone 0-2 in four starts since returning to the club in August. Salazar has allowed three runs or fewer in four of his five outings, including Tuesday's 2-0 loss at Atlanta, but he lasted just four innings and 77 pitches in that contest.

Salazar yielded two runs on three hits and a pair of walks in the loss, falling to 1-2 with a 3.67 ERA.

The 23-year-old had one of his better outings on Aug. 7 versus Detroit, lasting a season-high 7 2/3 innings and striking out 10. However, he did not factor into a 6-5 loss.

Salazar may face a Tigers lineup that again could be without slugger Miguel Cabrera, who did not play on Saturday after having exited each of Detroit's previous two games early because of abdominal irritation.

Cabrera leads the majors with a .358 average and 130 RBI, while his 43 homers are second only to Chris Davis' 47 for Baltimore.

Minus the reigning Triple Crown winner, Omar Infante came through with a pair of homers to pace last night's 10-6 win. He connected on a three-run shot in the second inning and added a two-run homer in the sixth.

"Omar hitting those two home runs, that definitely set the tone for us tonight," said Detroit outfielder Austin Jackson, who had a two-run triple in a key four-run eighth inning.

Anibal Sanchez surrendered three runs on six hits and a walk over 6 2/3 innings to pick up the win, Detroit's third in a row.

Scott Kazmir allowed four runs on seven hits and two walks over five frames for Cleveland, which has dropped five consecutive contests and also is now 4 1/2 games back of the league's second wild card spot.

Carlos Santana had a two-run, inside-the-park homer in defeat, while Yan Gomes added a solo home run.

"We fought back, which was good to see, but they just kept scoring," said Indians manager Terry Francona, whose club has been outscored 25-10 over the five-game slide.