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Ace-ability! Tigers 3, Indians 1

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In a battle of ace pitchers, the Tigers found a game-defining moment in Justin Verlander in the seventh inning and rode the momentum to a much-needed series victory over Cleveland. (More on that later.) The Tigers needed that, because today's game was a nice opportunity to show to themselves and others this 2009 edition of the Tigers is vastly improved over the past season -- not just physically, but mentally. Cleveland has been a stick in the Tigers' craw year after year after year.

Friday's victory by the Indians gave the Tribe an eighth consecutive victory over a Tigers team that had struggled against in-division teams. But Detroit survived the mental kick in the stomach on Saturday after blowing a 5-0 lead only to be trailing in the eighth inning. They held strong again today when the Indians loaded the bases with no outs in the seventh inning.

And now, they have defended Comerica Park in a series they very well could have lost after dropping Friday's game, and rallied to a 5-3 record against the Central in this early season. All indications are positive.

Roar

With a home run in the second inning, Brandon Inge extended his on-base streak to start the season to 24 games. The Tigers' record of 30 was set by Ron LeFlore in 1976. ... Verlander struck out 11 batters -- including recording seven outs in a row by strikeout from the second to the fourth innings. ... Miguel Cabrera went 3-for-4, and the top four in the order combined for eight hits.... Bobby Seay and Joel Zumaya kept the Indians off the board in the eighth, and Fernando Rodney earned his sixth save in the ninth. The Tigers "winning" bullpen arms this season mean most late leads are safe ... Tigers pitching held Cleveland to three hits in 30 at-bats.

Whimper

Carlos Guillen went 0-for-4 with four fly balls to right field, leaving seven on base. ... Tigers DH Ryan Raburn went 0-for-4, leaving four on base.

Turning point

A walk of Shin-Soo Choo to open the seventh inning was a bad start for Verlander. Mark DeRosa doubled. Then Tigers manager Jim Leyland ordered an intentional walk to the left-handed Kelly Shoppach David Dellucci to get to the 7-8-9 batters. Even the ace was going to have troubles getting out of this one! But Verlander induced a shallow fly to right field and then struck out Indians rookie Matt LaPorta, who was making his big league debut. Now the Tigers just had to worry about the No. 9 batter, and Luis Valbuena grounded out weakly. Wow!

The Tigers rode that momentum into the bottom half of the inning, and back to back doubles by the first two batters, backup catcher Dane Sardinha and center fielder Curtis Granderson, gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead and put Verlander on-line for the victory.

Comment of the game

The Walrus9 shamelessly nominated this, but I think it sums thing up pretty well

I think I'm falling in love with this 2009 Tigers team

so much more heart and determination than last year’s team. Last year’s team folds when JV loads the bases. Last year’s team doesn’t get a couple runs to back up JV after he manages that Houdini act.

Kurt of Mack Avenue Tigers is guest blogging while Ian is in Seattle.