DETROIT -- Justin Verlander pitched seven solid innings, Victor Martinez homered and the Detroit Tigers beat Cleveland 7-5 on Friday night to take a 3½-game lead over the Indians atop the AL Central.
Martinez and Torii Hunter had three hits each for the Tigers in the opener of this three-game series. Detroit led 5-0 before Cleveland scored three runs in the fifth off Verlander.
That was all the Indians could manage against the Tigers' ace in losing their fifth straight game. Verlander (8-4) allowed three runs and seven hits on the night. He walked two and struck out six.
Detroit's Jose Valverde came on with a four-run lead in the ninth. He allowed solo homers to Jason Giambi and Drew Stubbs but held on. Nick Swisher grounded out with a man on second to end it.
Ubaldo Jimenez (4-4) allowed five runs -- three earned -- in three-plus innings.
Cleveland lost its ninth straight road game.
Detroit is trying for its third straight division title, and the Indians have emerged as the top early threat from the rest of the AL Central. Jimenez beat Verlander in Detroit on May 11, and Cleveland took two of three in that series.
But the Tigers swept a two-game series in Cleveland later that month, the start of a stretch in which the Indians have lost 13 of 17.
Martinez opened the scoring in the second with a solo homer to right, his fifth of the year. Detroit then managed two more runs without hitting the ball out of the infield.
Jhonny Peralta walked and Brayan Pena grounded into a force play. Then Ramon Santiago hit a groundball to first, and Swisher tried to make a tough throw to second to get the lead runner. The ball got away for an error on Swisher, and Avisail Garcia walked to load the bases.
After Andy Dirks struck out, Hunter hit an RBI single, and Miguel Cabrera walked to force in another run.
Garcia doubled to lead off the fourth and scored on a single by Dirks. Hunter singled to chase Jimenez, and Cabrera bounced into a double play, bringing another run home to make it 5-0.
Verlander hasn't allowed fewer than three runs in any of his last six starts, but the damage was limited to the fifth inning Friday. Michael Bourn hit an RBI single, and Jason Kipnis drove in two more runs with a bases-loaded double that Hunter was unable to catch against the wall in right.
Cleveland, which is without shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera (right quad strain), could get no closer. Swisher made another error in the fifth, which put men on first and third with nobody out. A double play grounder by Pena made it 6-3.
Pena added an RBI single in the seventh.
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