Brantley no stranger to JV, and vice-versa

Brantley no stranger to JV, and vice-versa

CLEVELAND -- No pitcher has faced Michael Brantley more than Justin Verlander. Just a handful of current hitters have stepped into the box against Verlander more often than Brantley. They've built a history over the years.

That's why, when asked about Brantley fouling off everything but the kitchen sink before lacing his fifth-inning RBI double to break a scoreless duel in a 4-0 Indians win over the Tigers on Saturday at Progressive Field, Verlander could smile and interject.

"No, the kitchen sink was in there, too," Verlander said.

On a night when Verlander felt comfortable throwing all of his pitches, Brantley fouled off everything but the changeup to keep his at-bat and the fifth inning going with Francisco Lindor on first base. It ended with a double off the wall in right-center field, sending Lindor around to score for the game's first run.

That was all the Indians needed, though they tacked on three insurance tallies off Bruce Rondon. Though Verlander pitched better against the Indians than he had all season, he suffered his third loss in four meetings with the Tribe this year, thanks to a hitter he had owned the past few seasons.

Though Carlos Santana and Lonnie Chisenhall garner a lot of the attention when Verlander faces the Tribe, Verlander and Brantley have had their own saga. Brantley went 15-for-38 from 2009 to 2013, but with just two extra-base hits. Since then, Verlander had held him 6-for-35 entering Saturday.

Nineteen of Verlander's 115 pitches Saturday went to Brantley, all with a runner on base, but only one decided the game.

"He never gets out of his game plan," Verlander said. "He's so patient and calm at the plate. There's no panic. Ever. Even going to back when I'm throwing 101, 102 [mph], he's just nice and calm, fouling stuff off. You make a mistake and he hits it."

Said Brantley: "It's a battle every time. There's so much video and there's so much tape to go back years and years. You really try to simplify it and get a pitch out over the plate, don't try to do too much, stay up the middle and don't get caught in any tendencies.

"He's a great pitcher over there, he's their ace, and we were lucky to get the victory tonight."

In the first inning, Brantley fouled off two offerings from Verlander before flying out to right. Brantley chased a couple fastballs on the outside corner his next time up, fouling off the first before grounding a 2-1 fastball to second base to end the third inning following Lindor's two-out walk.

By the time Brantley came back up in the fifth, Verlander was rolling, recording three consecutive strikeouts with help from a nasty curveball before Lindor's two-out single brought up Brantley. Brantley took a curveball at the knees and a 97-mph fastball inside to fall into a 1-2 count. After a curveball in the dirt, Brantley went to work.

Verlander went back to the curveball at the knees. Brantley fouled it off.

Verlander tried the fastball off the plate again. Brantley went for it, but fouled it off.

On the seventh pitch of the at-bat, Verlander gave him a slider over the plate. Brantley fouled it off.

"You make good pitches and he fouls it off," Verlander said. "It's easy to get frustrated as a pitcher. But I've dealt with these guys enough that it's just par for the course."

After a high fastball ran the count full, catcher Alex Avila went back to the curveball that started the at-bat.

"Looking back, maybe I should've called a backdoor curveball instead of going in there," Avila said. "But he's still got to hit it."

Brantley considered himself fortunate.

"He was staying on the corners, staying off the middle the plate and mixing it up," Brantley said. "I was lucky to get a breaking ball out over the plate and put a good swing on it."

Said Verlander: "Even though it was a decent curveball in a decent spot, it kind of just ran away from him a little bit. So I think it gave him just enough time to say, 'Oh, it's a curveball.' It kind of just came out just a hair early. But we're kind of nitpicking right now."

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

Ben Weinrib is a reporter for based in Cleveland and contributed to this story.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.