The pitcher had his worst game of the year in the Indians’ most lopsided loss.
DETROIT (AP) — C.C. Sabathia and Justin Verlander squared off in a marquee matchup of starting candidates for next week’s All-Star game.
The Detroit Tigers knocked some of the luster off Sabathia’s sensational season.
Gary Sheffield, Carlos Guillen and Placido Polanco hit homers off Sabathia on Thursday, giving Detroit a 12-3 win over Cleveland and contributing to the star pitcher’s worst game of the year and the Indians’ most lopsided loss of the season.
“Sometimes you get those pitching matchups that don’t turn out quite like you thought they would,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “Fortunately for us, it turned out our way.”
Like Sabathia, Verlander gave up a home run in the first inning before outdueling the first pitcher in the majors to reach 12 wins.
Verlander (10-3) gave up three runs — two earned — and six hits with seven strikeouts and no walks over seven innings. The 24-year-old right-hander struck out five batters in a row from the end of the third inning to the start of the fifth.
“That’s a lot of equipment,” Leyland said. “You see guys throw 97, 98, but it’s really rare that you see guys that young with three pitches like he has — fastball, curveball, changeup — that are all above average.”
Sabathia loses third
Sabathia (12-3) gave up a season-high seven runs — six on three homers that matched a career high — in a season-low four innings. The reigning AL Player of the Week gave up 10 hits, walked one and struck out three in his last start before going to San Francisco for his third All-Star game.
“Any loss is tough, but I know I didn’t have my best stuff and I got my butt kicked,” the Bay Area-born Sabathia said. “So I can just put this behind me, enjoy San Francisco and be ready to go after the break.”
Leyland, who will manage the AL, said he couldn’t comment on who his starting pitcher might be in the All-Star game.
Verlander insisted he doesn’t care.
“I’m just excited to be there and honored to be voted in by the players,” the 2006 AL Rookie of the Year said three weeks after throwing a no-hitter.
Sheffield’s two-run homer in the fourth was his 20th of the season and the 475th of his career, moving him into a tie for 27th with Hall of Famers Stan Musial and Willie Stargell on the all-time list.
Detroit’s designated hitter had three RBIs, giving him 1,557 in his career and passing Hall of Famer Willie McCovey for 37th in baseball history.
Sheffield downplayed the milestones, but Leyland heaped praise on a player he managed for two teams, including the Florida Marlins squad that beat Cleveland in the 1997 World Series.
“In the last 15 years, I would have to say without question that he’s been one of the five most respected hitters in baseball,” Leyland said. “When he was at San Diego and I managed Pittsburgh, he was the most feared hitter in the league.”
Cleveland’s Victor Martinez hit a solo homer in the first inning and Ryan Garko singled, advanced two bases on an error and scored on a wild pitch in the second for a 2-1 lead.
Then, Verlander shut down the Indians with his fastball in the high 90s, deceptive changeup and knee-buckling curveball.
“That’s a young pitcher with great stuff,” Indians manager Eric Wedge said. “He just seemed to get stronger as the game went on.”
Polanco’s homer made it 1-all in the first inning and Guillen’s three-run home run — a 420-foot shot to left-center — in the four-run third put Detroit ahead 5-2.
Sabathia left the game trailing 7-2, then the Tigers turned the game into a rout after Martinez’s RBI double pulled Cleveland within four runs in the sixth inning.
Magglio Ordonez’s RBI single and Guillen’s sacrifice fly put Detroit ahead 9-3 in the sixth against Edward Mujica, who was chased after getting only one out.
Four pitches later, the Tigers led 12-3 after Jason Stanford gave up a two-run double to Sean Casey and an RBI single to Craig Monroe.
Detroit won the three-game series, pulling within a game of the AL Central-leading Indians.
“I’m not going to make a big deal about it because if we got swept, I wasn’t going to make a big deal about it,” Leyland said. “As long as you’re hanging around, the pennant race usually starts real late in August.”
Cleveland’s biggest loss before Thursday was an 8-0 defeat against the Los Angeles Angels on May 10. ... Leyland said he planned to rest All-Star Ivan Rodriguez today against the Boston Red Sox before having him in the lineup in the next two games. ... Sabathia, who gave up only one homer in six June starts, gave up three homers — all in the first inning — on May 1 against Toronto before earning the victory. ... Thursday was the 60th anniversary of Larry Doby’s first game with the Indians, becoming the AL’s first black player. Cleveland’s entire team plans to wear Doby’s No. 14 — a retired number — on Aug. 10 at home against the New York Yankees as part of the Hall of Fame weekend celebration. ... Detroit drew its sixth straight sellout.