(Sports Network) – Thanks to a grand slam by Victor Martinez, Justin Verlander picked up his major league-best 22nd win of the season as the Tigers held on for an 8-6 victory over the Indians.
Verlander (22-5) gave up a pair of two-run homers to Shelley Duncan during six innings, and left the game with the Tigers trailing. But Detroit used a five- run seventh, highlighted by Martinez’s slam, to take the lead for good.
The AL Central-leading Tigers completed a three-game sweep and extended their winning streak to six games.
Verlander became the first Tigers pitcher to win 22 games since Joe Coleman went 23-15 in 1973.
Lonnie Chisenhall hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the seventh for the Indians, but they couldn’t come back and lost for the fifth time in seven games.
Duncan hit his first homer in the second inning, after Carlos Santana worked a leadoff walk. He got behind in the count, 1-2, and fouled off two pitches while taking one in the dirt.
The seventh pitch of the at-bat was a fastball on the inside edge of the plate, and Duncan turned on it, sending it over the left field wall.
Alex Avila’s sacrifice fly and Wilson Betemit’s RBI double tied the game in the fourth inning, but Duncan struck again in the bottom half.
Jim Thome hit a two-out double to bring Duncan to the plate, and this time the appearance was short. Verlander threw three consecutive fastballs, the last of which was a 97-mph screamer near shoulder level. Duncan still went after it, and again sent the ball out to left field.
But Verlander’s offense — Martinez in particular — bailed him out during the seventh inning.
Detroit loaded the bases on two singles and an error to chase Masterson, and Miguel Cabrera followed with an RBI base hit against Joe Smith. Left-hander Tony Sipp was then brought in to face the switch-hitting Martinez.
The face-off lasted all of one pitch. Sipp’s first throw was a fastball slightly down and in, but still very much in the strike zone, and Martinez slammed it high and deep to left field, giving Detroit a 7-4 lead.
Just after Martinez’s grand slam sailed out of the ballpark, Verlander walked out from under the cover of the Tigers’ dugout, hands on the brim of his hat and smiling.
He shrugged his shoulders, palms up, as if to admit the rarity of the situation. But the slam did happen and put Verlander in a position to win, and in order for that to happen, the Tigers bullpen had to hold on.
Duncan singled against Ryan Perry to start the bottom of the seventh, only mild damage compared to his two prior plate appearances. But the rookie Chisenhall did come up with a big blast, pulling Phil Coke’s hanging curveball over the right field wall.
While the homer brought Cleveland within a run, Coke got Detroit out of the inning and Joaquin Benoit threw a scoreless eighth.
Avila doubled and scored on Don Kelly’s triple off the wall in right field during the ninth inning, giving Jose Valverde extra cushion as he secured his 42nd save.
Valverde tied the club record, set by Todd Jones in 2000, for saves in a season…Martinez’s grand slam was the second of his career…The Tigers had 13 hits, the 11th time in their last 13 games they’ve recorded 10 or more hits…Duncan has four career multi-homer games, despite hitting only 27 homers in five seasons. He also hit two during the Indians’ victory Sunday against Kansas City.