Five-Run Ninth Not Enough as Tigers Edge Tribe; Tigers 7, Indians 6
Bob Toth | On 14, Apr 2017
The Cleveland offense could not figure out Tigers starter Daniel Norris on Friday night and a late rally off of the Detroit bullpen fell one run short as the Indians dropped a 7-6 decision in game one of a three-game weekend set.
Cleveland could not solve the left-handed Norris on the mound for six scoreless innings of work as each of the first eight men to the plate would be retired by the southpaw. Meanwhile, the Tigers were able to get an early run of support for him in the second inning off of Indians starter Trevor Bauer and would pile on in the middle innings.
Justin Upton led things off in the second with a single to center before Bauer retired Tyler Collins on a liner and Alex Avila via strikeout. But back-to-back singles would put Detroit on top 1-0 as JaCoby Jones singled to right to move Upton to third and Jose Iglesias reached on an infield single to Francisco Lindor to knock in a run.
Cleveland would begin a troubling trend for the night (and one that has haunted the club in the early portion of this season) as it would strand a pair in the third after a double from Austin Jackson and a walk from the slumping Carlos Santana. Lindor frustratingly flied to center to leave more runners on base for the struggling Tribe offense.
Bauer locked in on the mound, retiring six straight before a two-out walk in the fourth to Avila, but he would come back to strike out Jones for his third K of the inning.
The Indians would again leave a pair against Norris in the fourth, as Edwin Encarnacion singled with one out and Yandy Diaz walked with two outs, but Abraham Almonte grounded into a double play to squash the rally efforts. It would loom all the larger the next half inning as Detroit ripped the game open.
Iglesias doubled to left and moved to third on a single from Ian Kinsler. After a lengthy battle with Nicholas Castellanos that ended in a strikeout of the Tigers third baseman, Miguel Cabrera sent a drive the opposite way and into the first row of the lower reserve, giving Detroit a 4-0 lead.
The fifth inning was a repeat for the Tribe, as they put two on with two outs and were unable to score. After back-to-back ground ball outs, Santana reached on a throwing error and Lindor drew a five-pitch walk, but Brandon Guyer popped up to third to end the inning. Once again, Detroit would make Cleveland pay for its inability to produce runs with men on base.
Bauer returned for the sixth but would not make it through the inning. Collins singled to right and Avila homered the opposite way over the wall in left to put the Tigers up six runs. Bauer would turn the game over to the bullpen and they contained Detroit until the ninth, but with the game more than halfway gone, the Indians were quickly running out of time to do damage.
Cleveland stranded a leadoff walk from Encarnacion in the sixth and had two more on in the seventh as Jackson walked and Santana reached safely on a fielder’s choice with one out, but line drives by Lindor and Guyer left them stranded.
Kyle Ryan became the third pitcher of the night for the Tigers in the eighth and he worked himself into trouble by giving up singles to Encarnacion and Ramirez to start the frame. After a lineout by Diaz and a walk by Almonte to load the bases, Ryan was lifted for fellow left-hander Justin Wilson. Roberto Perez grounded to second, forcing in Encarnacion on the out and Jackson walked to reload the bases, but Santana’s issues at the plate continued as he struck out swinging to end the inning and the biggest scoring opportunity of many for the Indians up to that point on the night.
The Tigers got the run back in the next half inning as Iglesias singled down the right field line off of Bryan Shaw and one out later came in to score as Castellanos doubled down the left field line past the outstretched glove of Diaz. That run would prove costly for Cleveland.
The Tribe had one last ditch effort up their sleeves in their final at bats of the evening. Freshly called-up reliever William Cuevas took over for Wilson and gave up a double to Lindor before hitting Guyer with a pitch. After striking out Encarnacion looking, Ramirez singled to right to load the bases. Diaz delivered a single to center to push home the Indians’ second run of the night as manager Brad Ausmus was forced to go to his closer Fernando Rodriguez in a five-run game. After striking out Almonte on a tough called third strike, Lonnie Chisenhall grabbed a bat for Perez and sent the second pitch of his evening into the night sky for a grand slam, cutting the Tigers’ lead to one at 7-6.
Rodriguez came back and struck out the former Tiger Jackson swinging to preserve the one-run win and earn his fourth save of the season.
The Indians dropped to 4-6 with their loss and have lost three in a row for the second time this season. They left 12 men on base, showing that they can get the runners on but have just been lacking the big hits to push them home. The Tigers improved to 7-3 with the win and held on to their spot atop the American League Central Division while looking to avoid another 4-14 effort against the Tribe this season.
“On a really frustrating night, and we’ve had a frustrating week, I was glad that we fought back,” said manager Terry Francona after the game. “That’s a trait that I think our guys have been good at. We didn’t win tonight, but we’ve won a few of those. If we do that more, we’ll win another one of those.”
NORRIS KNOCKS OUT TRIBE
Despite throwing just 54 of his 101 pitches on the night for strikes, Norris kept the Indians from doing damage against him. He allowed just two singles in six innings of work, but did walk four as his command was not what it could be. He struck out five on the night in earning his first win of the season.
BAUER BANGED AROUND
Bauer made 111 pitches on the night, his most in an outing since August 24 of last season. Seventy of them crossed the plate for strikes.
The long ball became his undoing as the pair of opposite field shots off of the Tigers bats in the middle innings proved to be too much to overcome, despite the late threat by the Indians offense. He worked two batters into the sixth inning, giving up six runs on eight hits with two walks and six strikeouts in taking his second loss of the season.
“I thought he was better than his line,” said Francona of Bauer’s effort on the night. “Miggy hit the three-run homer and that was the bulk of the damage. And then we sent him back out, just because of last night, trying to just maybe get a couple outs. That didn’t go very well. Avila…that was a nice piece of hitting. Ball was up and away and he knocked the heck out of it. His line’s not going to look very good. Their lineup is always going to make you work. His pitch count was high. But I thought he was pitching okay.”
LINDOR RECEIVES HIS HARDWARE
Prior to Friday’s game, shortstop Lindor received his hard-earned defensive hardware for his efforts on the diamond last season. He was presented with his Gold Glove Award as the top shortstop in the AL and his Platinum Glove Award as the top defensive player in the league in 2016.
AND EXTENDS HITTING STREAK
Lindor entered the day with a seven-game hitting streak and needed his final at bat to extend it to an eighth day as he sent a long double off of the left field wall to start the ninth inning rally.
THE SAND MAN
Chisenhall’s pinch-hit grand slam was the team’s first such blast since Jerry Sands did so in the fifth inning against the Minnesota Twins on August 8, 2015. Coincidentally enough, Sands came on for Chisenhall.
Cabrera took exception to a first inning pitch from Bauer and barked at the Indians dugout after the fact, leading to both benches being warned about the placement of their pitches. It may have led to Bauer avoiding the inside part of the plate for stretches of the contest afterwards.
“I didn’t think it was that far in. It was up. It wasn’t that far in,” shared Francona about the pitch that led to the warning. “I’m not really sure what he wanted me to do. I’m not going to run down the steps and hide. I just told him to hit.”
He later got his vengeance with a key three-run blast off of the Tribe right-hander.
Earlier in the day on Friday, both clubs made roster moves affecting their respective bullpens.
The Tigers optioned right-hander Joe Jimenez to Triple-A Toledo and selected the contract of the right-hander Cuevas. The 26-year-old had worked five innings of three games last season with the Boston Red Sox in his debut season.
Cleveland sent right-hander Shawn Armstrong back to Columbus after working two and one-thirds innings of scoreless relief in Thursday’s 10-4 loss to Chicago. He was replaced on the roster and in the bullpen by right-hander Nick Goody, who had put up four and one-third innings of scoreless relief in his first three appearances of the season with the Clippers. He worked two scoreless innings on Friday, giving up a hit and striking out a pair.
The Indians will look to avoid the dreaded four-game losing streak again on Saturday, something that they have not seen on the schedule since the 2015 season.
Corey Kluber (0-1, 5.25 ERA) will look to play the stopper for the Tribe and improve upon a 5-6 career record against the Tigers. He was 3-0 against them last season with a 2.25 ERA and a minute 0.82 WHIP in his five starts against them. Familiar right-hander Justin Verlander (1-0, 1.35) will make his 49th career start against the Indians in the afternoon affair. He was 1-3 against them last season and owns a 19-21 record all-time against the AL Central rival with a 4.48 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP.
Game time from a busy Gateway complex in Cleveland is scheduled for 4:10 PM ET.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images