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Verlander takes no-no bid into 8th

Justin Verlander talks after the Tigers' 4-0 victory over the Indians.
Justin Verlander talks after the Tigers' 4-0 victory over the Indians.
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DETROIT (AP)

Justin Verlander nearly pitched another no-hitter, taking his latest bid into the eighth inning to lead the Detroit Tigers past the Cleveland Indians 4-0 Tuesday night and into first place in the AL Central.

With two no-hitters already on his resume, including one in Toronto last month, Verlander (8-3) held the slumping Indians hitless until Orlando Cabrera lined a clean single to center with one out in the eighth for his 2,000th career hit.

The hard-throwing right-hander finished with a season-high 12 strikeouts in a two-hitter, giving Detroit sole possession of the division lead for the first time this year. He has won six straight decisions.

Andy Dirks drove in two runs for the Tigers, who have won 12 of 16.

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.

Yankees lefty Jim Abbott was the last pitcher to hold Cleveland hitless on Sept. 4, 1993, in New York.

The crowd of 28,128 groaned when Cabrera smacked a single to center and flipped his bat toward Cleveland's dugout. Verlander didn't acknowledge the cheers he received a moment later and didn't flinch or tip his cap when he got a rousing, standing ovation as he walked to the dugout after the eighth inning.

Carlos Santana blooped a single to left with two outs in the ninth and Verlander dropped into a crouch when the ball was hit. But he retired Michael Brantley on a routine grounder to end it after 2 hours, 24 minutes.

Verlander fell five outs shy of becoming the sixth pitcher with three career no-hitters.

Four of them are in the Hall of Fame: Nolan Ryan (7), Sandy Koufax (4), Bob Feller (3) and Cy Young (3). Larry Corcoran, an ambidextrous pitcher who won 177 games from 1880-85, is the other one.

Verlander also was trying to become the sixth pitcher to throw two no-hitters in one season - including Roy Halladay, who tossed his second gem in the NL playoffs last year.

Verlander was one strikeout shy of his career high. He hit a batter with a pitch and walked another in a masterful performance filled with fastballs approaching 100 mph and knee-buckling curves that were about 20 mph slower with the same arm action.

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 has 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.

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Verlander looked as though he might have another special night when center fielder Austin Jackson leaped over the right-center wall - getting his shoulder at the top of the fence - to rob Shin-Soo Choo of a solo homer in the second inning.

Verlander struck out two batters in three of the first four innings and didn't need any more spectacular plays to finish Detroit's major league-high ninth shutout of the season.

It was the second one for Verlander, and his third complete game. He has five shutouts and 13 complete games in his career.

NOTES: Tigers OF Magglio Ordonez didn't play, but is expected to be in the lineup Wednesday night and Thursday against Cleveland. ... Hafner is beginning a rehab assignment with Double-A Akron. He has been on the DL since May 20 with a strained oblique. ... The Tigers might put C Alex Avila at 3B during their upcoming interleague road trip. ... Cleveland RHP Jason Knapp had a second shoulder operation, another setback for a player acquired in the Cliff Lee trade.

Tagged: Justin Verlander, Justin Masterson, Indians, Tigers

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