Verlander gets the nod in opener with Tribe

Justin Verlander eyes a fourth straight win on Friday when the Detroit Tigers try to stretch their lead atop the American League Central in the first of a three-game set with the Cleveland Indians at Comerica Park.

After two straight losses, Verlander has responded with three consecutive wins. He beat the Baltimore Orioles on Saturday, limiting them to three runs and eight hits in seven innings to run his overall record to 7-4 to go along with a 3.70 ERA.

Verlander started this streak with a win over the Indians, but is 1-1 in two starts against them this season and is 15-14 lifetime versus them with a 4.68 ERA.

Detroit captured its series from the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday, as Max Scherzer struck out nine over seven stellar innings to remain unbeaten on the season to help the Tigers to a 5-2 win.

Scherzer (8-0) limited the Rays to a run on four hits and two walks en route to becoming the first Tigers starter to go 8-0 since Jeremy Bonderman in 2007. Jose Valverde spun a perfect ninth to notch his seventh save.

Victor Martinez scorched a two-run homer and finished with three RBI, while Miguel Cabrera went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored to help Detroit win for just the third time in its last nine tries and upped its lead over the idle Indians to 2 1/2 games.

"It's always good when you help the team get a win," Martinez remarked. "We played good as a team. (Scherzer) went out there and gave us a great chance to win the ballgame."

Cleveland, meanwhile, limps into this series between division rivals, having lost four in a row after a three-game sweep at the hands of the New York Yankees that culminated with a 6-4 loss on Wednesday.

Jason Kipnis and Nick Swisher drove in a run apiece in that one and Yan Gomes hit a two-run homer in the setback, the Indians' 12th in 16 games.

"I think our guys have done a really good job of showing up and playing," said Cleveland manager Terry Francona. "Again, the results the last...whatever, haven't been what we like."

Getting the ball for the Indians will be righty Ubaldo Jimenez, who is 4-3 with a 4.83 ERA, but is coming off a brilliant outing his last time out. Jimenez scattered four hits over eight scoreless innings to beat the Rays on Saturday. He also struck out seven and walked a batter.

"The biggest guy is Ubaldo," Cleveland's Jason Giambi said. "He was the guy who made it all happen. He went out there, and he started pounding the strike zone, getting guys out, and that was a huge lift for us, to see him come out there like that, because we really needed it."

Jimenez has now allowed two runs or less in six of his last seven starts (4-1) to lower his ERA more than five runs.

His lone loss in that span, though, came to the Tigers. He is 5-8 in 15 starts against them with a 5.19 ERA.

Detroit is 3-2 versus the Indians this season.