Tribe Rides Two Solo Homers and Tomlin’s Fantastic Start to Victory; Indians 2, Tigers 1

Josh Tomlin pitched strong into the seventh inning and the Indians made two solo home runs off of Justin Verlander stand up, as Cleveland took the clean sweep from Detroit on Friday in a 2-1 victory.

The Indians lineup on the day had a different look to it, as both Rajai Davis and Jose Ramirez got the night off and manager Terry Francona opted for the interesting move of placing designated hitter Carlos Santana in the leadoff spot. The move, long screamed for by a handful of on-base percentage minded individuals, paid off immediately with the first batter of the night.

Santana worked the count full against Verlander before pulling a solo shot over the fence in right field for the early 1-0 Indians lead. It would be the last of the scoring until the sixth.

“If he was hitting fourth tonight, he might have done the same thing,” said Francona of Santana, “but there might have been somebody on base. I was pleased because it gave us, not a cushion, but a lead.”

The Indians made Verlander work, but could not figure out a way to avoid the strikeout or to reach base frequently. Two struck out in the first, one more in the second, and two more in the third as the Indians stranded a runner in scoring position with one out. While continuing to drive up Verlander’s pitch count, the Indians got a two-out walk in the fourth after two strikeouts and got a one-out single from Tyler Naquin in the fifth, but would strand both runners in scoring position in each inning.

The Tigers clawed across a run in the sixth against Tomlin. The Tribe right-hander had retired 17 of the first 18 batters of the game, giving up just a leadoff double in the second, before Ian Kinsler singled to center. Justin Upton followed with a double to the gap in left-center to score Kinsler from first and tie the game at 1-1.

Cleveland responded with the biggest run of the night on the first pitch of the seventh inning against Verlander. First pitch swinging, Marlon Byrd belted the game-changing blast to the seats in right to give Cleveland a 2-1 lead, one that would stand up the rest of the way.

“With Verlander, you have to be ready for the fastball,” said Byrd. “You don’t know if it’s going to be 92 or 98. I finally got the one early in the count, on the plate, and I put a good swing on it.

“That’s the fun, when you have an ace on the mound, you know they are bringing their A game every single day. You have to make sure you’re swinging at strikes, because they start mixing and matching and they really pay attention to guys that have been around the game for a while because they know I’m up there thinking right along with them. It’s a chess match, and tonight, I finally got it.

“It’s big, that’s why I’m over here. I’m like Jason Giambi over here, the older guy. I want to get big hits, I want to produce, and I want to help this team win any way I can.”

Of Byrd’s 156 career home runs, 48 of them have come from the seventh inning on.

Closer Cody Allen took the mound for the ninth inning, looking to bounce back from the tie-breaking three-run homer he surrendered to Seattle’s Robinson Cano in the tenth inning of Thursday’s 10-7 loss. He had his work cut out for him, as Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez, and J.D. Martinez were all due up. He got Cabrera to pop out to Mike Napoli in foul ground for the first out, Victor lined to Jason Kipnis in the shift for the second, and J.D. flew out to Lonnie Chisenhall in right to end it.

Allen is now 5-for-5 in save opportunities this season.

With the win, the Indians pull back to the .500 mark at 7-7, while the Tigers fall to 8-7 and hold just a half-game lead on Cleveland.

“These are games we’ve lost in the past,” said Francona, “so good start for us.”


Verlander (1-2, 5.79 ERA), who made his Major League debut against Cleveland on July 4, 2005, has had a tough time figuring out the Tribe throughout his career. It was not a result of a bad effort from him on Friday, as he worked seven innings and allowed just two runs on four hits with two walks and ten strikeouts on 118 pitches.

“He’s able to elevate his fastball and he got it past our barrel for most of the night,” said Francona. “I thought we made him work, but he competes like crazy.”

With the loss on Friday night, he dropped to 18-19 with a 4.38 ERA against the Tribe in 44 career starts. The 19 losses against Cleveland are easily the most defeats he has had at the hands of any one opponent in his dozen-year career. He was 0-2 against them in 2015 in three starts.

AP Photo/Paul Sancya
AP Photo/Paul Sancya


Tomlin (2-0, 1.54 ERA) bounced back from his injury shortened victory in his first start of the season with another fantastic effort on the mound for the Tribe. He worked six and two-thirds innings on the night, allowing one run on four hits with a walk and four strikeouts on 85 pitches.

He has also very quietly become a stopper for the club when pitching after an Indians loss. In his last nine starts entering Friday night’s game, he was 8-0 with a 2.29 ERA and had not lost since June 22, 2014, against Detroit.

“The way Josh pitched, he pitched so well,” said Francona. “He pitched in. He really pitched well. That was fun to watch.”


The leadoff homer from Santana was his seventh career home run against Verlander, matching the most by any one hitter in his career. Only ex-Tribesman Jim Thome had as many homers as Santana does against the Detroit ace. The temporary top of the order man for the Tribe also doubled off of Verlander in the third with one out, but was stranded at second base.


Tribe skipper Francona got a nice gift for his 57th birthday from his ball club – a series opening win over the Tigers.


Napoli struck out four times in four at bats after playing the temporary hero in Thursday’s 10-7 loss to the Seattle Mariners. Yan Gomes added three more himself for the hat trick, as the four and five hitters in the Indians lineup combined for more than half of the team’s 12 strikeouts on the night.


The Indians’ win, combined with the game three win by the Cleveland Cavaliers over the Pistons in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs, put a damper on the sports fans in the Detroit area.


Ramon De Jesus became the first Dominican umpire in Major League Baseball history on Friday night when he worked the Indians/Tigers game from Comerica Park. The 33-year-old Santo Domingo native has been working as a minor league umpire since 2009 and started this season in the Triple-A level in the Pacific Coast League before his promotion.


On Saturday, the Indians will send right-hander Corey Kluber (0-3, 6.16) to the mound in search of his first win of the season and a little bit of run support. The Tigers will counter with right-hander Anibal Sanchez (2-1, 4.60).

Game time from Comerica Park on Saturday is scheduled for a 1:10 PM ET first pitch.

Photo: AP Photo/Paul Sancya

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Meaningless stat saying Marlon Byrd has hit 48 of his 156 homers in the 7th inning or later. Since 1/3 of a nine inning game is the 7th or later, he should be expected to have 1/3 of his homers in those innings, which would be 52, Add in extra innings, and he should have a few more, so 48 is not a great number.

    1. Thank you for your opinion on the statistical contribution in the story. Your point is taken. Some might argue that later in the game, you’d be more likely to see fresh arms and hard-throwing relievers or matchup pitchers. With that theory in mind, getting just one look at a pitcher and hitting a home run may be more difficult than in the first six innings, when you have likely seen the same guy three to four times. Just food for thought.

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