DETROIT (AP) - The Cleveland Indians are trying to take their slump in stride.
Justin Verlander nearly pitched another no-hitter, taking his latest bid into the eighth inning to lead the Detroit Tigers past Cleveland 4-0 Tuesday night and into first place in the AL Central.
``It isn't almost a no-hitter - we got two hits, and he didn't take it into the ninth inning,' Indians manager Manny Acta said. ``Our kids are young, but they aren't naive. They know there are no trophies for first place in June.'
The Indians have scored two runs in their last four games and have been shut out four times in the last 10.
``We want to know the answer just as much as anyone,' said Orlando Cabrera, who broke up Verlander's no-hit bid with an eighth-inning single. ``Our entire offense seems to be missing right now. We can't let go. We have to keep competing. This division is wide open.'
Detroit has a one-game lead over Cleveland - with nearly 100 games left in the season - and a 10-game cushion over the surging Minnesota Twins.
``We've got to keep pushing,' Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera said.
Still missing injured slugger Travis Hafner, the Indians lost for the 15th time in 20 games and fell out of first place for the first time since April 6.
Verlander has won his last four starts and hasn't lost since April 27.
Back then, Justin Masterson was on a roll for the Indians. Since then, he's been in a slump for a team plummeting after a strong start.
Masterson (5-5) gave up four runs - two earned - on seven hits and five walks over 6 1-3 innings. He is 0-5 since his last victory April 26.
``I feel for the guy,' Acta said. ``He keeps pitching well, but we're not hitting.'
Verlander (8-3) had a season-high 12 strikeouts in a two-hitter. He walked one, hit a batter and has won six straight decisions.
With two no-hitters already on his resume, including one in Toronto last month, Verlander held the slumping Indians hitless until Orlando Cabrera lined a clean single to center with one out in the eighth.
``With that guy, you feel lucky any time you get a hit,' Cabrera said. ``You just go up there and keep battling and hope he throws you something you can get your bat on.
``There's no embarrassment when it is being done by one of the best pitchers in the game.'
The crowd groaned when Cabrera smacked a single to center and flipped his bat toward Cleveland's dugout when he was about halfway up the line.
Verlander was told what Cabrera did and said he'd remember it even though the flipped bat might've been a sign of frustration more than disrespect or showmanship.
``If he wants to flick his bat when it's 4-0 and they just got their first hit in the eighth inning, if that's the type of player he is, that's fine,' Verlander said. ``You can't worry about guys like that.'
Carlos Santana blooped a single to left with two outs in the ninth Tuesday and Verlander dropped briefly into a disappointed crouch. But he retired Michael Brantley on a routine grounder to end it.
Andy Dirks drove in two runs for the Tigers, who have won 12 of 16 to move into sole possession of the division lead for the first time this year.
NOTES: Hafner is beginning a rehab assignment with Double-A Akron. He has been on the DL since May 20 with a strained oblique. ... Detroit didn't have an extra-base hit, snapping its 66-game streak to start the season that was its longest since at least 1919. ... Cleveland RHP Jason Knapp had a second shoulder operation, another setback for a player acquired in the Cliff Lee trade. ... Yankees lefty Jim Abbott was the last pitcher to hold Cleveland hitless on Sept. 4, 1993, in New York. ... Tigers OF Magglio Ordonez didn't play, but is expected to be in the lineup Wednesday night and Thursday against Cleveland.
The Associated Press News Service
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