Tigers Take First Half Finale From Tribe; Tigers 5, Indians 3
Bob Toth | On 10, Jul 2017
Michael Fulmer pitched at his All-Star level through the first six innings and the Cleveland bullpen could not keep the score tied in the middle innings as the Detroit Tigers dealt the Indians a 5-3 loss to close out the first half of the 2017 regular season schedule.
Sunday’s national broadcast put the Indians and Tigers in the spotlight with an impressive pitching matchup between a pair of All-Stars in Fulmer and Corey Kluber.
Both pitchers looked sharp in the early going, as the first two innings moved relatively quickly and quietly with only an infield Jose Ramirez single accounting for base traffic between the two clubs. He was erased on an inning ending double play ball by Lonnie Chisenhall before the Tribe right fielder left with a calf injury.
The Indians needed a two-out rally of their own in the bottom of the fourth to tie the game. Bradley Zimmer singled to right before a fly out by Francisco Lindor. Zimmer moved into scoring position on a throwing error by Fulmer on a pickoff attempt and the Indians rookie center fielder moved to third on a grounder to second by Michael Brantley for the second out. With the inning hanging in the balance, Edwin Encarnacion delivered with a first pitch double to left to drive in Zimmer and tie the game at one. After Ramirez was intentionally walked, Brandon Guyer struck out looking in his first at bat of the game replacing Chisenhall, but the Indians had tied the game at one.
Kluber had to work harder in the middle innings, leading to an earlier exit than hoped from the Tribe’s ace. He needed 23 pitches to clear the fourth inning and 30 in the fifth, despite holding the Tigers scoreless in the two frame. He retired all three outs in his final inning of work on swinging strikeouts, but also loaded the bases on a single and two walks in between.
The Tigers pounced on the normally reliable Tribe bullpen in the sixth after Kluber’s exit. Miguel Cabrera drew a leadoff walk off of Nick Goody before he was forced at second on a grounder by J.D. Martinez. Victor Martinez moved him up to second with a single to right and Nicholas Castellanos drew a four-pitch walk to load the bases. Dan Otero relieved for interim skipper Brad Mills, but he allowed consecutive hits to break open the game. Alex Presley doubled to left to score both Martinezes to make it a 3-1 game and Iglesias reached safely on a single to first to make it 4-1. Kinsler grounded out for the second out before Alex Avila was intentionally walked. Justin Upton grounded out with the bags juiced, but Detroit had taken a 4-1 lead.
In the seventh, the Tigers tacked on another. J.D. Martinez singled with one out and moved to third on a stolen base and throwing error by catcher Yan Gomes. He scored easily from 90 feet out on a single by Castellanos off of Otero, pushing the score to 5-1.
The Indians would have two more substantial scoring opportunities in the late innings, but would be unable to scratch all the way back against a bad Tigers bullpen. Fulmer remained on the mound to start the seventh, but four straight hits by the Indians (after having just three through the first six innings) would chase the All-Star. Encarnacion singled to right to start the inning and trotted home on a big blast to right by Ramirez to make it 5-3. Guyer and Santana each singled to send Fulmer to the showers for Shane Greene. With two on and nobody out, he struck out Gomes on three pitches, got Abraham Almonte to ground into a force at second, and with runners on the corners, Zimmer struck out looking.
The Tribe tried to rally again in the eighth off of Greene. After Lindor lined out to left to start things off, Brantley and Encarnacion each walked. Justin Wilson came on in relief and got Ramirez to ground into a force at second for the second out. Guyer walked to load the bases for the second straight inning, but with the tying run standing in scoring position, Santana grounded meekly to third to end the threat.
With the meat of the order up for the previous two scoring chances, the Tribe sent the bottom of the order up in the ninth for a second inning against Wilson. Gomes fouled out on the first pitch and defensive replacement Giovanny Urshela lined to center. Zimmer kept hopes alive with a single to right, but Lindor struck out swinging to end the game.
The Indians finished the first half of the schedule with a 47-40 record, but a disappointing 21-24 mark at home this season. They head into the break with a two and a half game lead in the AL Central over the Minnesota Twins. The Tigers improved to 39-48 with their victory on Sunday, but are eight games in back of the Tribe.
Kluber left after five innings. While he allowed just a run on three hits, he walked three and struck out eight to quickly elevate his pitch count. A heavy work load in his last two innings on the mound accounted for well over half of the pitches that he threw in the ball game. With the no-decision, he heads into the break with a 7-3 record and a 2.80 ERA on the season.
His club-record streak of consecutive starts with ten or more strikeouts ended at five games.
Fulmer (9-6, 3.19 ERA) earned the win after his offense came to his aid. He allowed three runs (two earned) on seven hits with a walk and a strikeout in six-plus innings of work. He was solid through the first six, allowing just a run on three hits, but the Tribe bats came alive quickly as they faced him for a third time on the night. Greene earned his eleventh hold of the season in relief while Wilson secured his tenth save.
Prior to the game, the Indians announced that second baseman Jason Kipnis had been placed on the 10-day disabled list with a hamstring injury. Urshela was recalled from Triple-A Columbus to take his place on the roster. Erik Gonzalez is expected to see an increased workload at second base, while Ramirez could also spot at the position if Kipnis is out for a lengthy period of time.
Chisenhall left early after feeling something grab in his calf while attempting to back up first base early in the game. He attempted to play through it but felt it again on his double play groundout and was quickly out of the game. The severity of the injury was not known following the game, although bench coach Mills inferred it could be a mild sprain.
The Indians’ woes with runners in scoring position continued on Sunday night as the club was 1-for-8 in those situations and stranded eight runners on base. The Tigers were 4-for-10, but they stranded eleven on the night.
Presley was the big contributor for the Tigers in the game, going 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, and two runs batted in. Iglesias was 3-for-4 behind him in the lineup with a double and an RBI. The right fielder Martinez was 2-for-5 with two singles and two runs scored.
Zimmer, Encarnacion, and Ramirez paced the Indians offense, scoring or driving in all three of their runs on the night. The bottom four hitters in the lineup combined to go 2-for-15 with a pair of strikeouts.
The Indians will next take the field on Tuesday when the coaching staff and five players travel to Miami for the 88th edition of the All-Star Game from Marlins Park. The team will reunite in regular season action on Friday when the Indians begin a two-city road trip in California, starting in Oakland. Carlos Carrasco will start the series opener, to be followed by Kluber and Trevor Bauer.
Photo: Ron Schwane/Getty Images