Pitching Coming Around For Tribe

Manager Manny Acta said the Indians' goal coming into their three-game series against first-place Detroit was a series sweep. Cleveland didn't get it, but Acta wasn't discouraged.

"Two out of three is not bad," Acta said after his team's 4-3 loss to the Tigers on Thursday night.

The Indians won the first two games of the series, then ran into Tigers ace Justin Verlander in the finale.

Nevertheless, the second-place Indians shaved a game off the four-game division lead the Tigers held over them at the start of the series. The two teams now go their separate ways for six games before reconvening in Detroit next weekend for another three-game series.

During the just-concluded series, Cleveland had to be encouraged by the work of the pitching staff. After a two-hour rain delay in the opener, the Indians got spectacular work from their relievers, who tossed 12 scoreless innings in a 3-2, 14-inning win.

In the second game, Ubaldo Jimenez, in his second start since being traded to Cleveland, pitched the way Indians officials hope he can pitch the rest of the season -- like a true No. 1 starter. Jimenez threw eight strong innings without allowing an earned run to anchor a 10-3 win.

The Indians lost the third game but got an encouraging outing from Fausto Carmona, who has struggled for most of the season. Carmona (5-12) pitched seven innings, allowing three earned runs.

For the offensively challenged Indians to overtake the Tigers and win the AL Central, they are going to have to do it with pitching. Cleveland showed this week that its staff might be up to the task.

Tribe Talk

--RHP Fausto Carmona took the loss, dropping his record to 5-12, but he probably deserved better Thursday night. Carmona pitched seven innings and held Detroit to four runs (three earned).

"Carlos did a fantastic job, and really got into a good rhythm after the second inning," manager Manny Acta said. Over his last six starts, Carmona is 1-2 despite a 2.86 ERA.

--RHP Justin Masterson will start Friday against the Twins on two days of rest. Masterson started Tuesday against the Tigers but threw only 37 pitches in two innings prior to a two-hour rain delay that resulted in his removal from the game. Pitching coach Tim Belcher said he doesn't think Masterson will have any trouble pitching on short rest.

"Tuesday was just like a bullpen session for him," Belcher said. "He's such a horse he could probably always get by with three days' rest."

--LF Michael Brantley sat out Thursday's game, as he continues to be bothered by a sore right wrist. It was unfortunate for the Indians that Brantley couldn't play because Detroit's starter was Justin Verlander, and Brantley is one of the few Indians with good numbers vs. the right-hander. Brantley is a career .438 (7-for-16) hitter against Verlander.

--RHP Joe Smith and LHP Tony Sipp each pitched a scoreless inning Thursday. In winning two of three games in their series with the Tigers, Indians relievers did not allow a run in the 15 innings.

--C Carlos Santana's home run Thursday was his 18th of the season and third in his last seven games. Over those seven games, Santana is hitting .357 with 11 RBI.

--SS Asdrubal Cabrera, who left Wednesday's game due to a sore right heel, was back in the lineup Thursday. He went 1-for-4 with a two-run double.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- Runs allowed by the Indians bullpen in a total of 15 innings pitched during the three-game series with Detroit.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I like his fire." -- Manager Manny Acta, on SS Asdrubal Cabrera, who had a dugout confrontation with 1B Carlos Santana in the first inning Monday after Santana missed a throw at first that Cabrera thought Santana should have caught.

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