There was a reason Don Kelly was in Jim Leyland‘s starting lineup tonight. Detroit’s seldom used outfielder has been a Tribe killer throughout his career with huge stats against Justin Masterson. Tonight was no different. Kelly recorded three hits including a three-run homerun in a five-run fifth inning to help the Tigers beat the Indians 5-1 Tuesday night at Progressive Field.
With the victory, Detroit (66-45) extended its winning streak to 10 games and lead over the Indians (62-51) to five games in the AL Central Division.
Justin Verlander, who has struggled throughout his career versus the Indians, was in complete control challenging Tribe batters early and often. The reigning AL Cy Young pitched eight dominant innings of four-hit ball to improve to 12-8 (3.74) on the season.
Cleveland took an early 1-0 lead in the second. After failing to get a leadoff man on base in last night’s game, the Indians got their leadoff man on in the first and second. Michael Bourn singled to start the game and Asdrubal Cabrera scorched a double off the right field wall to begin the second. Michael Brantley followed up Cabrera’s double with a single to give the Indians runners on the corners with no outs. Carlos Santana then hit a soft grounder to Prince Fielder, who caught Cabrera in between third and home. Cabrera worked the play perfectly allowing Brantley to advance to third before being tagged out. Ryan Raburn brought Brantley home to score with a ground out to second.
After loading up the bases in the second, Masterson came through in the clutch to keep the Tigers off the scoreboard. Fielder and Victor Martinez drew back-to-back walks and Kelly singled to load the bases for last night’s hero, Alex Avila. But Masterson won this battle, striking out Avila. He then sat down Jose Iglesias and got Ramon Santiago to bounce out to short.
One bad fifth inning would put a damper on an otherwise strong performance by Masterson. Santiago led off the fifth squaring to bunt, but was struck on the leg by the pitch. It appeared that Santiago offered the bat, but third base umpire Tom Hallion said no way when Terry Francona came out to argue. Austin Jackson followed the drama with a single to give Detroit runners on the corners with no outs. Torii Hunter‘s fielder’s choice scored Santiago and tied the game 1-1. The party was just getting started as Miguel Cabrera doubled to deep center to score Hunter and give the Tigers a 2-1 lead. Fielder grounded out, then Masterson hit Victor Martinez in the foot. Martinez fell to the ground in agony but stayed in the game. Kelly followed with a three-run blast into the right-field seats to give Detroit a 5-1 lead.
Marc Rzepczynski relieved Masterson in the eighth and looked sharp in his lone inning of work. Masterson (13-8, 3.46) gave up five runs on seven hits in seven innings, striking out six and walking two.
Matt Albers pitched a scoreless ninth for the Indians. José Veras closed out the game for the Tigers.
Dating back to last season, the Tigers have won 14 of their last 18 against the Indians. In those games, they have outscored the Indians 109-62.
Tonight’s loss wasn’t the only bad news for the Indians. Before the game, Corey Kluber was placed on the 15 day disabled list with a strained right middle finger.
The Indians will try to chip away at the Tigers five game lead in the AL Central Division tomorrow night at 7:05 ET with hard-throwing 23-year-old Danny Salazar (1-0, 1.50) making his second career start against right-hander Doug Fister (10-5, 3.52). In Salazar’s major-league debut July 11, he threw a no-hitter for five innings and gave up one run and two hits in six innings, earning a 4-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
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