CLEVELAND — Manny Acta isn’t much on moral victories, but the Indians manager wasn’t too disappointed in his team after a losing effort Thursday night at Progressive Field.
Facing one of the game’s best pitchers in Detroit ace Justin Verlander, Cleveland didn’t lay down, battling Verlander and the Tigers to the end before falling 4-3 in front of 30,988 fans.
Of course, the fight to the finish didn’t do anything for the Indians in their race with Detroit for the Central Division crown, with the first-place Tigers snapping a 13-game losing streak at Progressive Field to avoid the sweep, while bumping their lead over Cleveland to three games.
But it couldn’t keep Acta down.
“We came into this series trying to shorten up the distance, and we did,” said Acta, whose club entered the three-game set, trailing the Tigers by four games. “The goal was to sweep them but our guys played very well in this series. I like the way we went about our business.”
Verlander was good but not as dominant as he has been for much of this season, allowing three runs on three hits, while striking out 10 over seven innings to notch his 100th career victory.
The Indians didn’t get many hits off Verlander, but they made them count.
Carlos Santana hit a solo home run in the second inning for Cleveland’s first run, while Asdrubal Cabrera’s two-out double in the third accounted for the other two.
“I’ve seen him better, obviously,” Acta said of Verlander, who allowed just one more hit after the third. “We battled him and got him out of there after seven innings.”
The Indians had other opportunities against Verlander, but couldn’t cash in on any of them.
After a leadoff single in the fifth, Lonnie Chisenhall got caught up waiting for a liner from Lou Marson to fall and was thrown out at second by right fielder Magglio Ordonez.
In the sixth, Santana hit a ball to the wall in center field with a man on that was snared by a leaping Austin Jackson, who at least stole extra bases from Santana.
Cleveland starter Fausto Carmona rose to the occasion after a shaky first two innings, allowing three earned runs on seven hits, while striking out six over seven innings. All of the Tigers’ runs off Carmona came within the first two innings.
“I thought Fausto did a fantastic job,” Acta said. “He gave up those runs on groundballs. He got into a very good rhythm after those first two innings. I thought he found a feel for his change-up. I’m glad he’s getting so confident in that pitch.”
With his change-up as an out pitch, Carmona allowed just four hits over his final five innings of work.
“After the second inning, I felt very good,” Carmona said. “I threw everything tonight, every pitch, and it worked a lot.”
Carmona also played peacemaker.
After Santana failed to come up with a catch from Chisenhall that went as an error to the third baseman in the first inning, television cameras caught Cabrera and Santana having words in the dugout. Carmona had to separate the pair.
Acta said Cabrera was upset that Santana didn’t come up with the throw, while Santana did not like how the All-Star shortstop talked to him.
“Something happened,” said Santana, who tried to keep his foot on the bag as he reached for Chisenhall’s high throw. “Me and (Cabrera) are friends. Everything is good. These things happen in baseball.”
Cabrera was not available after the game.
Though two of his top players feuded in the dugout, Acta saw it as a positive.
“I like it,” he said. “That means we have people around here that want to win. That’s fire. I like that.”