Miggy's clutch hit, V-Mart's hot bat lift Tigers in 10
Verlander fans eight in seven strong; Davis, Kinsler hit back-to-back HRs
CLEVELAND -- Justin Verlander looked like his old self Saturday, for the better.
Detroit's bullpen juggling looked familiar, too, for the worse.
Miguel Cabrera looked much the same. The familiar damage Victor Martinez keeps putting up on his old club forced the Indians to watch Cabrera hurt them.
"It seemed like every time we came through there [in the lineup], we got nicked up," Indians manager Terry Francona said after Cabrera's go-ahead RBI double in the 10th sent the Tigers to their third straight win, this one a 5-4 victory at Progressive Field.
The win extended Detroit's lead to 1 1/2 games over the Royals, who lost to the Mariners earlier. Four days after the Royals had built the same size lead on Detroit with 10 consecutive victories, the Tigers have started to undo the damage.
They're back to their early-season ways in some sense, leveraging strong starting pitching while trying to find outs from their bullpen. Between injuries and pitch counts, the latter wasn't near full strength. Between two veteran run producers and a hot-hitting right fielder, the lineup might be its most formidable all year.
When the season began, Ausmus had said the only hitter who could protect Cabrera in the lineup was Cabrera. Earlier this week, he finally acknowledged that Victor Martinez was doing so much damage that opponents were no longer pitching around Cabrera.
In the 10th inning, with the Indians riding a wave of momentum from their game-tying rally off Joe Nathan minutes earlier, Ausmus put that change to the test. He not only brought up Cabrera with an open base, he created it, sacrificing Ian Kinsler to second base following his leadoff single.
"I knew they'd have to face one of those two," Ausmus said. "They couldn't walk both of them. So I was willing to take my shot with a guy on second and one out and our two best hitters coming up.
"I figured they would pitch to Miggy and walk Vic, and I knew if they did that, we had the hottest bat in our lineup up next [J.D. Martinez]. It was kind of a perfect storm to bunt."
Francona -- having seen Victor Martinez hit his 19th home run of the year to lead off the second inning, then single home Cabrera to tie the game in the sixth -- opted to face Cabrera.
"When you have an open base, you kind of choose who you want to face, because you'd rather not face both of them," Francona said. "But, if you walk both of them early in games, there's a pretty good chance they're going to score. So, sometimes you have to get them out."
Francona liked his chances better with Cabrera, but still had Cody Allen pitch carefully. Allen couldn't get Cabrera to chase a first pitch low and off the plate, but left the second offering over the plate.
"[Allen] was trying to go up and in and went down and middle," Francona said. "He missed his spot by a lot and that's what Cabrera does with it."
Kinsler scored easily. Nathan, who suffered his fifth blown save after coming within a strike of closing out the ninth, fell in line for the win. And Ausmus, who had to shuffle his bullpen to get the lead to the ninth once Verlander left after seven solid innings, had to shuffle again to finish.
Joba Chamberlain wasn't available, having thrown three straight days. Ian Krol was headed for the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. Phil Coke, once relegated to long relief work or mop-up duty while going through his struggles, suddenly had his first save situation since the Tigers opened the 2013 season with a closer-by-committee.
Four days earlier, he was running from the dugout to the bullpen to warm up as an emergency long reliever during Max Scherzer's 51-pitch second inning. As he made his trademark mad dash from the bullpen to the mound Saturday, he was back in familiar surroundings.
"Honestly, it didn't really feel a lot different than what it's been feeling like lately," Coke said. "I've been feeling good as I've gone out there more and more recently. It's been really nice to have that feeling."
He hit 95-96 mph with fastballs to send down Michael Brantley, then did the same on a slider to Jason Kipnis. Carlos Santana's two-out single brought the tying run to the plate in Lonnie Chisenhall, who fouled off a 97-mph fastball to stay alive in the count.
Once Coke snapped a slider that fanned Chisenhall, the adrenaline seemed to return. So, too, did the Tigers.
"I think it's important," Ausmus said of the winning streak, "because we had leads going deep into the game. And although we had to go to the 10th inning to win it today, we still won it."