DETROIT -- The Tigers already have as many wins over the Indians in 2017 as they did all of last season. Miguel Cabrera's two-run home run in his first game back from the disabled list led a five-run, three-inning onslaught against Corey Kluber, supporting Justin Verlander for a 5-2 win Tuesday night at Comerica Park.
Detroit has taken four of five games in the division rivalry, including the first two games of this four-game series. Cleveland won 14 of 18 last year.
"Any win against a division rival is big, especially these guys who beat on us last year," Verlander said. "It feels good. But we all know it's a long ways yet."
The second Verlander-Kluber matchup in three weeks wasn't quite as high-scoring as last month's meeting in Cleveland, but it wasn't a pitchers' duel, either. Eight of 17 batters reached base safely on Kluber (3-2), including an Andrew Romine RBI double and run-scoring singles from Victor Martinez and Alex Avila.
Kluber exited after three innings due to tightness in his lower back, which has been an issue for the pitcher sporadically all season. Indians manager Terry Francona said the team will re-evaluate Kluber on Wednesday in order to determine if a trip to the 10-day DL might be in order.
"Obviously, it doesn't feel great," Kluber said. "I had to come out of the game for it. It's been a few starts now, kind of on and off to different degrees. Tonight, for whatever reason, it just wasn't allowing me to go out there and pitch very well."
Verlander struggled for command in the chilly weather, but delivered seven innings with two runs allowed, walking four and striking out five. Francisco Rodriguez brought the tying run to the plate in the ninth but retired Francisco Lindor for his seventh save.
"I felt my stuff was good. I threw a lot of pitches over the heart of the plate," Verlander said. "If you're not able to hit the corners, you can't just walk everybody. I threw some pitches I'd normally like to have back. But on a night like tonight, you've got to try to throw strikes."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Miggy happy returns: In his first game off the DL, Cabrera was charged with facing Kluber. On the surface, that would seem like a tall task, but the Tigers' slugger has bested the Tribe's ace plenty over the years. In the third, Kluber fired a 2-2 four-seamer inside and off the plate, but Cabrera got the barrel to the ball and pulled the pitch out to left field for a two-run home run. It marked the sixth home run Kluber has given up to Cabrera, who has cleared the fence against the right-hander's sinker (two), cutter (two), changeup (one) and four-seamer.
"There's a reason he's probably the best hitter of our generation," Kluber said. "It was a good pitch. ... It was what I was trying to do there. You've just got to tip your hat to him. He's a good hitter for a reason."
Vanquished by Verlander: Before Verlander settled down, he had a potential disaster in the first, loading the bases with two singles and a two-out walk before plating a run on a wild pitch. But he found his escape with Jason Kipnis, 6-for-50 for his career against Verlander entering the night. After throwing a slider on the run-scoring wild pitch, Verlander went back to the slider on the next offering, bringing it up and in as Kipnis swung and missed for the strikeout.
"If it's the right pitch, it's the right pitch," Verlander said.
"They showed the replay. He brings his hands in. He's just a special hitter. That's a pretty good piece of hitting." -- Francona, on Cabrera's homer off Kluber
"He said, 'How do you feel?' And I said, 'I got this.' He said, 'All right, we will go one by one.' I knew if a guy got on it was the end of my night. It was kind of a mutual understanding. I knew if a guy got on, I'm done. And I knew if I got the next two guys out it's a big turning point for our team." -- Verlander, on manager Brad Ausmus' mound visit after he retired the first batter in the seventh inning
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Cabrera boasts a .442/.473/.846 slash line in 55 career plate appearances against Kluber. That marks his highest batting average against any one pitcher (min. 50 PAs).
AFTER FURTHER REVIEW Ian Kinsler thought he had beaten Lindor's double-play throw to first base in the fourth, but first-base umpire Carlos Torres ruled him out. A 2-minute, 21-second review overturned the call, putting Kinsler on base with one out.
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Right-hander Carlos Carrasco (2-2, 2.04 ERA) is scheduled to take on lefty Matthew Boyd and the Tigers in a 7:10 p.m. ET tilt on Wednesday at Comerica Park. Carrasco has stranded 95.5 percent of the baserunners he has allowed through five starts this year.
Tigers: Boyd (2-1, 3.86), who tossed six innings of one-run ball to beat the Indians in Cleveland three starts ago, gets a rematch at Comerica Park against a Tribe lineup that has struggled mightily against lefty starters this season.