DETROIT -- Marlon Byrd's go-ahead home run leading off the seventh inning continued Cleveland's success against longtime nemesis Justin Verlander, who was outdueled by Josh Tomlin for a 2-1 Indians win Friday night at Comerica Park.
"The way Josh pitched, he pitched so well," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "That was fun to watch. ... These are games we've lost in the past, so it's a good start for us."
While Tomlin (2-0) followed up his four-hitter over the Tigers from last September with 6 2/3 innings of one-run ball, the Indians used a pair of homers to stretch Verlander's winless streak against them to eight starts. Carlos Santana's seventh career homer off Verlander led off the game before Byrd took Verlander's first pitch of the seventh inning deep to right.
"Santana, I threw where I wanted, he put a good swing on it," Verlander said. "And Byrd, I was trying to go down and away with strike one and it was up just enough, got the barrel."
Verlander (1-2) struck out 10 Indians for his 30th career double-digit strikeout performance, and his first against Cleveland since 2011. But the veteran right-hander hasn't beaten the Tribe since April 17, 2014, a game Alex Gonzalez started at shortstop.
"Verlander was outstanding. He really was," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "One of the better games he's thrown in the last year and a half. He did his part. Unfortunately, Tomlin did a little bit better."
Indians relievers Zach McAllister, Bryan Shaw and Cody Allen combined to retire the final seven Detroit hitters in order to seal the win. Allen went through the meat of the Tigers' lineup to notch his fifth save -- one day after allowing a game-deciding, three-run homer in an extra-inning loss to Seattle.
"It's good to get back out there and experience some success," Allen said. "It can snowball in either direction. You try to bounce back as well as you can and get something going, get some momentum and the ball rolling in the right direction."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Leading off: Francona used Friday to experiment with Santana as a leadoff hitter for the first time. Santana did not disappoint in his debut atop the order. In the first inning, the switch-hitter watched five pitches before drilling a full-count fastball into the right-field seats. Santana added a double off Verlander in the third inning.
"I thought he did a good job," Francona said of Santana. "He hit a home run his first at-bat. That was probably about as well as you could draw it up. But if he was hitting fourth tonight, he might've done the same thing and there might've been somebody on base. I was pleased because it gave us a lead." More >
Upton comes through:Justin Upton's chilly start left him without an RBI since April 12, the final game of the Tigers' last homestand, despite Ian Kinsler's torrid stretch. But when Kinsler's two-out single ended a run of 14 consecutive Tigers retired and extended the sixth inning, Upton jumped Tomlin's first pitch and lined it into the gap in left-center, doubling home Kinsler to tie the game.
Big Byrd's blast: Outside of Santana's first two hits, the rest of the Indians had a 1-for-19 showing against Verlander through six innings. After Detroit tied the game in the home half of the sixth, Byrd finally gave Santana some help. The veteran outfielder pushed a first-pitch heater to right for an opposite-field blast to put the Tribe ahead.
"I just jumped on the first fastball he threw me," Byrd said. "It's big. They tied it up and then to go right back up like that, it let Tomlin settle in and didn't put any pressure on him. We were keeping the pressure on the other team instead."
Wilson keeps it close: Though Verlander became the second Tiger to deliver seven innings in a start this season, Detroit needed two big outs from Justin Wilson in the eighth to stay within a run. Back-to-back singles from Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor gave Cleveland a chance to add on, but Wilson won a nine-pitch battle with Mike Napoli before getting Yan Gomes to chase a 96-mph high fastball.
"The hope was when we brought him in that he could keep us within one the last couple at-bats for us," Ausmus said. "And that's exactly what he did."
"It went right at somebody. What else is new?"
-- Victor Martinez, on his ninth-inning lineout into the shift, measured at 109 mph by Statcast™
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Santana has hit just .232 (13-for-56) in his career against Verlander, but seven of those hits (53.8 percent) have been home runs. According to STATS LLC, Santana became the first Indians batter to hit a leadoff shot in his first career plate appearance as a No. 1 hitter since June 28, 1984 (Joe Carter vs. Texas).
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Right-hander Corey Kluber (0-3, 6.16 ERA) will take the mound for the Tribe on Saturday for a 1:08 p.m. ET divisional clash with the Tigers at Comerica Park. One matchup to watch will be Kluber vs. Miguel Cabrera, who has hit .571 (20-for-35) with five home runs, 10 RBIs and a 1.652 OPS in his career against the starter.
Tigers:Anibal Sanchez (2-1, 4.60 ERA) faces the Indians for the first time in two years, hoping to rebound from a rough Sunday afternoon in Houston in his last start. He's 4-3 with a 2.73 ERA for his career against the Tribe.