Carlos Carrasco and the Cleveland Indians spoiled the return of Detroit Tigers starter Justin Verlander.
Carlos Santana homered and Carrasco shook off a bad history in Detroit to lift the Indians to a 5-4 victory Saturday.
Carrasco (8-5), who started the game 1-4 with a 9.45 ERA in six outings at Comerica Park, struck out eight and allowed three runs and seven hits in 5 2/3 innings to help disappoint a sellout crowd that turned out for Verlander’s season debut.
The former MVP and Cy Young award winner, who had been on the disabled list with a right triceps strain since the start of the season, left with a 3-2 lead after pitching five innings. But reliever Blaine Hardy (2-1) was tagged for two runs in the sixth that gave the Indians the lead for good.
Detroit’s J.D. Martinez led off the eighth with a homer off Bryan Shaw before Cleveland’s Cody Allen pitched the final 1 1/3 innings for his 14th save in 15 chances.
Verlander allowed one baserunner through the first three innings but gave up a homer to Santana to open the fourth. He loaded the bases with one out in the fifth but only allowed Jason Kipnis’ sacrifice fly to keep the lead.
“We’re really grateful to have him back,” Martinez said. “It just looked like he was out there and he was throwing strikes, getting ahead of guys and making good pitches when he needed to.
“It was just unfortunate we couldn’t get that win for him today but I think he pitched really well and I’m excited for the future for the rest of the season.”
Verlander’s hardest pitch was timed at 97 mph and manager Brad Ausmus said he thought about sending him back out for the sixth with his pitch count at 87.
“I think it was a good first outing, good first step and I’m sure as we move deeper into the season he’s going to pitch longer, he’s going to probably be sharper, maybe have an off day here or there,” Ausmus said. “I think in fairly short order, he’ll be back up to his 110-120 pitches.”
Verlander, scheduled to make his second start Thursday at Cincinnati, was excited to return but added he felt a bit tired in the fifth.
“It was nice to be back out there. Felt good to be on a big-league mound. Felt pretty good overall,” he said. “The rhythm wasn’t quite there, but overall I felt pretty good. Hopefully, the body and arm respond well moving forward.
“I think it was just exerting more energy than I have yet. I wouldn’t say that I was completely tired, but I could tell that I was putting more into it than I had at any point in my rehab.”
Rajai Davis tripled to open the Tigers’ first and came home on Miguel Cabrera’s single. Carrasco loaded the bases later in the inning but escaped further trouble by striking out the next two batters.
“It was really important,” Carrasco said of working out of the jam. “It’s a tough lineup and I just follow every hit like it’s my last and that worked today.”
Martinez had an RBI double in the third and Davis added one in the fourth.
David Murphy tied the game in the sixth with an RBI triple that chased Hardy and Jan Gomes brought him home two pitches later with a sacrifice fly off Alex Wilson. Murphy scored his second run on Gomes’ deep eighth-inning double.
Jose Iglesias and Anthony Gose had consecutive two-out singles in the eighth but Allen struck out Davis to keep the Indians ahead. Cabrera walked and got to third on Yoenis Cespedes’ bloop single with one out in the ninth but Allen got Martinez to ground into a game-ending double play.
“Any team with a one-run lead and Miguel Cabrera at the plate is going to feel a little uneasy in the dugout,” Murphy said. “It was awesome the way we finished it off there.”
The Indians, shut out by David Price in Friday night’s series opener, earned just their second win against their AL Central rivals and snapped the Tigers’ three-game streak in the season series.
REHAB FOR MARTINEZ
Tigers DH Victor Martinez is scheduled to begin a rehab assignment Sunday with Triple-A Toledo. Ausmus said Martinez will play at least four games with the Mud Hens before he’s evaluated further.
Martinez has been bothered by the effects of offseason knee surgery and was placed on the 15-day DL on May 19 after hitting .216 with one homer and 15 RBIs in 34 games. He finished second in last season’s AL MVP voting after hitting .335 with 103 RBIs and a career-best 32 homers.
Cleveland: The Indians activated RHP Scott Atchison from the DL on Saturday. He had been out since May 28 with an ankle sprain. The club optioned RHP C.C. Lee to Triple-A Columbus to create a roster spot.
Detroit: RHP Bruce Rondon allowed an earned run and two hits with two strikeouts in an inning Friday night with Toledo. Ausmus said the reliever, who began the season on the DL with tendinitis in his pitching arm, will be evaluated after throwing Sunday.
Cy Young winner Corey Kluber (3-6, 3.61) gets the ball for Cleveland in Sunday’s series finale. He’ll face RHP Alfredo Simon (6-3, 2.76).