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Verlander endures rocky outing as Tribe takes series

Ace unable to command fastball, allows four-run second inning

CLEVELAND -- And they thought being stranded in Boston was rough.

"I think yesterday was just pure adrenaline for some of us," Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter said after Tuesday's 6-2 loss to the Indians. "But today, you could tell it kind of lingered."

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CLEVELAND -- And they thought being stranded in Boston was rough.

"I think yesterday was just pure adrenaline for some of us," Tigers right fielder Torii Hunter said after Tuesday's 6-2 loss to the Indians. "But today, you could tell it kind of lingered."

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The Tigers have lost more games at Progressive Field the last two nights than they did in nine games here last season. Their success here in 2013 ended up being the difference in the division.

Justin Verlander, however, has had his share of rough outings here. Remember, this was the place where he was rocked in his Major League debut in 2005. Even so, Tuesday's loss was among the roughest.

"Those guys hit some decent pitches and hit some bad ones," he said. "It's kind of one of those days."

With one game left, it's one of those series -- the kind the Tigers didn't have in Cleveland last season, the kind they really haven't had anywhere this year. They've lost back-to-back games on the road for the first time all year, and they've lost on back-to-back days for just the second time anywhere this season.

How they respond to another quick turnaround, in a 12:05 p.m. ET matinee on Wednesday, will determine whether they will have their first three-game losing streak of the season.

"There was no lack of effort," manager Brad Ausmus said. "Guys didn't look down. I don't know how they felt individually. I didn't ask them. Usually in the past, my experience has been that it's two days after the sleepless night that gets you. But guys felt fine. They just beat us today."

They beat Verlander, who looked out of sorts from the outset like he hadn't all year.

Never in 20 previous visits had Verlander given up 11 hits to the Indians in Cleveland, nor had he struck out fewer than four batters in one of those games. And yet, considering how hard the Indians hit him from the outset on Tuesday, it could've been worse than the final margin.

"The really good pitchers, you've got to make them earn everything," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We really made him work hard."

Verlander (5-3) came in looking to clean up his pitches after a five-run fifth inning in Baltimore last Wednesday nearly cost him his early six-run lead. This time, his big inning came early.

Verlander had allowed a mere .164 (12-for-73) average from opponents this season the first time through the order. On Tuesday, seven of Cleveland's first nine batters reached base safely, and four of them scored.

"I fell behind early on, just didn't have great control of my fastball, and got myself in a bunch of 1-0, 2-0 counts where I couldn't really use most of my pitches," Verlander said. "I had to throw strikes."

When he did, the Indians pounced.

"Last night, we played a little bit of Houdini with guys on base," catcher Alex Avila said. "Today, same situation, that's going to happen."

The vast majority of the damage came off the fastball. He had gotten more life on it thanks to an adjustment between starts in his delivery, a tweak he mainly had made to hide the ball better. However, he lost some of the feel.

He escaped the opening inning with a lone run allowed on three straight singles thanks to a David Murphy double play. He had no escape once the first six batters reached to open the second, even after Carlos Santana was thrown out at second base on the leadoff single.

Three of Cleveland's next four hitters doubled, including ninth hitter Mike Aviles into the gap in left-center field to plate two runs. That was a hanging slider. Everything else came off the fastball, including Michael Bourn's ensuing double off the right-field wall to drive in Aviles.

"Fastball command, I think that's what really hurt us today," Avila said. "His overall stuff was good. It's just not being able to command it, being behind hitters."

Instead of looking for a win, Verlander was suddenly left seeking damage control. He found it from there, holding down the Indians offense and lasting six innings. He kept it close enough that the Tigers threatened with the potential tying run in scoring position by the time he was out.

Torii Hunter's 429-foot drive to left-center field in the opening inning looked like the sign of a Tigers outburst on rookie Trevor Bauer, facing Detroit for the first time in his career. Instead, Avila's reviewed homer just over the wall in left-center leading off the fifth comprised Detroit's only other run.

Other than that, Bauer kept Tigers hitters mainly off balance, stranding Miguel Cabrera following his leadoff double in the fourth. He held Victor Martinez hitless, a huge reason why he delivered six innings of two-run ball on seven hits.

It was Bauer, not Verlander, who came in with a history of command problems. Eventually, the Tigers put that to the test, bringing the tying run to the plate in his final inning following back-to-back walks to Martinez and Austin Jackson.

Bauer put rookie Nick Castellanos in an 0-2 hole with back-to-back sliders, then got a ground ball to first base. Initially, first-base umpire Tim Timmons ruled that Castellanos beat Asdrubal Cabrera's throw to first, a call Francona challenged.

After a lengthy review, the call was overturned. Murphy's home run the next inning off Evan Reed essentially put the game away.

"From the replay on the board, I thought it was going to go our way," Ausmus said. "And then after they reversed it, I looked at the play on the computer. Looking at that replay, the quality of the picture is better and they made the right call. It looked like Nick's foot was just above first base about to come down when [the ball] hit the back of the glove."

Jason Beck is a reporter for Read Beck's Blog and follow him on Twitter @beckjason.

Detroit Tigers, Justin Verlander