Detroit, MI – Victor Martinez finished a triple shy of the cycle, going 3-for-4 with a solo homer and three runs scored in the Detroit Tigers' 7-5 victory over the Cleveland Indians in the opener of a three-game set at Comerica Park.
Martinez's performance backed a solid start from Justin Verlander (8-4), who struck out six while yielding three runs on seven hits and two walks over seven innings to earn his fourth straight victory.
Torii Hunter went 3-for-5 and knocked in a run, while Andy Dirks, Miguel Cabrera and Brayan Pena each registered an RBI as well for the Tigers, who have won four of their last six games to push their lead over Cleveland to 3 1/2 games atop the AL Central.
Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4) had a forgettable outing for the Tribe, giving up five runs -- three earned -- on seven hits and three walks over three-plus innings to absorb the loss.
Jason Giambi and Drew Stubbs each smacked a solo shot, Jason Kipnis clubbed a two-run double and Michael Bourn added an RBI in the setback, Cleveland's fifth in a row.
"We're going to figure this out," Indians manager Terry Francona said of his team's recent struggles. "In the meantime, sure, you hate to lose and it's so personal. But we'll figure it out."
Detroit broke through with three runs in the second, starting with Martinez's leadoff blast deep into the seats in right field.
"If he gets hitting like we know he can, we're going to have a real good offense," Detroit manager Jim Leyland said of Martinez.
Jhonny Peralta followed with a walk before Pena grounded into a fielder's choice. Ramon Santiago then reached when first baseman Nick Swisher tried to start a double-play, but his throw to second was off the mark.
Avisail Garcia worked a walk to load the bases and after Dirks struck out, Hunter beat out a slow roller to shortstop to plate Pena for a 2-0 edge.
Jimenez then issued a walk to Cabrera to score Santiago and make it 3-0.
Detroit added to its lead in the fourth, as Garcia belted a leadoff double and scored when Dirks ripped a single back up the middle. Hunter followed with a single to right to put runners on the corners and chase Jimenez from the game.
Matt Albers entered for Jimenez and got Cabrera to ground into a 1-6-3 double play, but Dirks was able to score from third to make it 5-0.
Cleveland finally got to Verlander in the fifth, as Mark Reynolds started the frame with an infield single before Mike Aviles and Drew Stubbs smacked back- to-back base hits to load the bases with one out.
Bourn then slapped a single to left to plate Reynolds before Kipnis launched a fly ball to the warning track in right that went off the glove of Hunter, allowing Stubbs and Aviles to score to trim the margin to 5-3.
Detroit got a run back in the home half, as Martinez smacked a leadoff single and moved to third when Peralta reached on Swisher's fielding error.
Nick Hagadone then replaced Albers and got Pena to ground into a double play, but Martinez was able to score from third to make it 6-3.
Giambi led off the ninth with a blast to right off Jose Valverde and Stubbs followed two batters later with a shot to left to bring the Tribe within 7-5.
After Bourn flied out, Kipnis lined a single to left to keep the game alive, but Valverde got Swisher to ground out weakly to end the contest.
Martinez homered for the second straight game ... Jimenez fell to 5-9 in 16 career starts against Detroit ... Verlander hasn't lost since May 16 ... Detroit first baseman Prince Fielder went 0-for-4 to snap an 11-game hit streak ... Cleveland went 3-for-8 with runners in scoring position.