DETROIT (AP) — Justin Verlander looked stunned after Sunday’s loss to Cleveland, and it wasn’t hard to understand why.
He had just allowed four homers in a six-run fifth inning during one of the worst starts of his career. Making things worse, it came against a team his Detroit Tigers can’t beat.
With their 9-3 victory, the first-place Indians improved to 9-0 against the Tigers this season and lead them by seven games in the AL Central.
“Obviously, we’ve got to start playing better against those guys,” Verlander said. “This could have been a big win for us today, but it all blew up in my face.”
Only once before had Verlander allowed four homers in a start — also against the Indians in 2007. According to the Elias Sports Bureau and Fox Sports Detroit, he became the first pitcher in franchise history to give up four in one inning.
Verlander (7-6) allowed eight runs on nine hits and two walks in 4 2/3 innings. It was the 15th time a Tigers starter gave up at least six runs this season, most in the American League and one behind San Diego.
“I started off all right today, but then it all fell apart in that one inning,” Verlander said. “I’ve worked my tail off for the last month and a half to get back where I wanted to be, and then it all blows up in one start.”
Even the Indians seemed a little surprised, especially manager Terry Francona. He’s talked for years about how much he hates facing the Tigers, and Verlander is one of the biggest reasons why.
“I’ve spent a lot of long nights in this office, trying to figure how to regroup after getting beat up yet again by that team,” Francona said. “I can’t entirely explain this, but it feels good.”
Lonnie Chisenhall had four hits, including one of the four homers off Verlander. Juan Uribe, Tyler Naquin and Mike Napoli also went deep for the Indians.
Chisenhall was 4 for 4 with a triple and three RBIs.
Mike Tomlin (9-1) beat Verlander for the third time this year, allowing three runs and six hits in eight innings.
“That feels great, because he’s an established star in this league,” Tomlin said. “But I can’t focus on who I’m pitching against, especially when I have to worry about the guys in this lineup.”
Cleveland overcame three homers by former teammates, including two by Victor Martinez, to sweep Detroit for the third time this year. The Indians have outscored the Tigers 60-20 in nine games.
The Tigers kept their clubhouse closed for an unusually long time after the game, but manager Brad Ausmus declined to say whether he held a team meeting.
“They just have our number right now,” Ausmus said. “There’s no other way to explain it.”
Ex-Indian Mike Aviles gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead with a third-inning homer, his first of the season. It also was the first time Detroit had led against Cleveland this year.
In the fourth, though, Michael Martinez walked, went to third on Francisco Lindor’s single and scored on Verlander’s wild pitch. Chisenhall made it 2-1 with an RBI single later in the inning.
Victor Martinez’s 13th homer tied it in the fourth, but the Indians scored six times in the fifth.
Uribe and Naquin started the inning with back-to-back homers to give Cleveland a 4-2 lead. Napoli hit the third home run with two outs, scoring Lindor to make it 6-2. And after Jose Ramirez singled, Chisenhall homered to right field, chasing Verlander.
“I left some balls up in the zone, and those guys are just seeing everything really well right now,” Verlander said. “That’s not a recipe for success.”
Victor Martinez homered again in the sixth to make it 8-3.
Two days after the Indians hit three triples in an inning for the first time in 48 years, they hit four homers in an inning for the third time in franchise history. The other two came in 1963 and 2004.
Tigers RF Steven Moya missed his second straight game with a sore knee.
Detroit is off Monday before hosting Miami in a two-game series.