DETROIT — The lineup Justin Verlander was facing barely resembled the Cleveland team that clinched the AL Central title the night before.
The ace right-hander took full advantage.
Verlander struck out a season-high 12, and the Detroit Tigers routed the Indians 12-0 on Tuesday night to pull within a game of the American League’s second wild card. Miguel Cabrera homered and drove in five runs in the first two innings.
The Indians clinched the division on Monday night in Detroit, and their lineup Tuesday was without Jason Kipnis, Francisco Lindor, Mike Napoli and Jose Ramirez.
“It’s actually kind of tough that way — a bunch of guys in there I don’t know at all,” Verlander said. “Just trying to figure it out on the fly when I’m out there and kind of read swings and stuff.”
Verlander (16-8) went 7 2/3 innings, allowing four hits and a walk. The Tigers are now a game behind Baltimore for a wild card.
Mike Clevinger (2-3) lasted only two innings, allowing Cabrera’s two-run double in the first and his three-run homer in the second.
“I wasn’t mentally ready for this game, and that’s embarrassing,” Clevinger said. “I’ve made so much progress in about my last ten outings, and then I gave a lot of it back tonight. Some of that is baseball, but I felt like I could have controlled some of it.”
Justin Upton added a three-run homer in the seventh, and Andrew Romine hit a two-run shot in the eighth.
Cleveland is 14-3 against Detroit this season, but the Tigers did exactly what could be expected against this unique version of the Indians. Cabrera’s double made it 2-0 before the Tigers made a single out, and it was 5-0 after his drive over the wall in center an inning later.
Cabrera now has 35 home runs and 102 RBIs on the season.
Ian Kinsler hit an RBI single in the fourth, and Upton’s 29th homer made it 9-0.
The Tigers began clearing their own bench late in the game. They used five pinch hitters in the eighth, and Romine — the only batter in that frame who wasn’t a pinch hitter — had come on earlier as a defensive replacement. His drive to right put the Tigers up 12-0.
Detroit hit for the cycle that inning with consecutive batters on a double by Nick Castellanos, a triple by Tyler Collins, Romine’s homer and a single by Steven Moya. Kansas City accomplished the same feat against the Tigers to start the game Sunday.
PLAYING IT SAFE
Verlander looked eager to keep pitching in the eighth, but manager Brad Ausmus took him out after 110 pitches. Verlander’s next scheduled start is Sunday in the regular-season finale at Atlanta.
“We have a potential game in five days that could mean a lot, and he’s going to be the guy pitching,” Ausmus said. “So I’m certainly not going to run his pitch count up today in a game when we have a commanding lead.”
Tigers: Castellanos (left hand) was activated from the DL before the game, and he flew back to Michigan in time to enter in the eighth. He had been at the instructional league. “He played this morning in an intrasquad game, had a number of at-bats, got a couple hits,” Ausmus said. “Followed that up by flying to Detroit and getting a double down the third-base line, so he looked good.”
Indians: Cleveland might have its regulars back in the lineup Wednesday night against the Tigers, but it could be another adventure on the mound. Zach McAllister (3-2) makes only his second start of the season. He has pitched 51 times in relief.
Tigers: Rookie Michael Fulmer (11-7) makes his final scheduled start of the season. He needs 6 1/3 innings to qualify for the ERA title.
Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister