A pair of four-run innings gave the Cleveland Indians all of the runs that they would need as they held off the Detroit Tigers and completed a second three-game sweep over their division rivals on Thursday night in a 9-4 win.
The Indians struck for four quick ones in the bottom of the first inning after Tribe starter Trevor Bauer escaped a two-on, one-out jam. After Rajai Davis struck out to start the bottom of the frame, Jason Kipnis singled to right center and Francisco Lindor singled right up the middle past Tigers starter Michael Fulmer. A single to right from Michael Brantley scored Kipnis to put Cleveland on the board. Mike Napoli then ripped the inning open with a blast a third of the way up the bleachers in left to give the Indians a 4-0 lead. Carlos Santana doubled and Juan Uribe walked on five pitches before Fulmer notched two more strikeouts to end the first.
Bauer had retired eight straight before a leadoff walk to Miguel Cabrera to start the fourth. Victor Martinez singled to right before a fielder’s choice groundout from Justin Upton forced Martinez at second. With men on the corners, the red hot Nick Castellanos went the opposite way to right and over the fence for a three-run shot to cut the Cleveland lead to 4-3.
The Tribe responded with a two-out run in the bottom of the fourth after Uribe’s leadoff single was erased on a double play ball from Lonnie Chisenhall. On the first pitch of his second at bat back with Cleveland, Chris Gimenez homered to straightaway center to extend the Indians lead to 5-3.
“It’s a solo homer but it was nice to answer back, because we scored four early and you feel pretty good,” said Indians manager Terry Francona. “Trevor hadn’t given up much, but a walk, base hit, and a home run, they got two hits but they got three runs and they’re right back in it.”
Cleveland added some much needed insurance runs in the bottom of the eighth. Uribe singled off of reliever Alex Wilson to start the inning and was lifted for pinch-runner Jose Ramirez. Chisenhall singled him to second before a walk by Gimenez loaded the bases. Davis delivered a single up the gut to score a pair and gave Cleveland a 7-3 lead. Kipnis, against reliever Blaine Hardy, reached on an error to load the bases again. Lindor popped up to second for the first out and Gimenez was gunned down at the plate, with Brantley batting, trying to score on a wild pitch that bounced back perfectly to Tigers catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Brantley made it a moot point, delivering a two-out, two-run double into the right field corner to make it 9-3, Indians.
The win secured a second three-game sweep of the Tigers for the Tribe in two attempts to start the 2016 season. The Indians (13-12, .520) have now won three straight and move past the Tigers in the standings by percentage points. The Tigers (14-13, .519) have now dropped three straight and six consecutive games to Cleveland.
INDIANS OFFENSE PROVIDES SUPPORT
Cleveland accumulated 16 hits and nine runs off of Tigers pitching on the night. Brantley led the way with a 4-for-5 at the plate and drove in three. Napoli had a pair of hits and also knocked in three. Kipnis, Uribe, and Chisenhall also chipped in with two-hit games.
“Using the whole field, that’s very important. They’re all big hits,” said Brantley in his postgame interview. “Any time you get a hit off of a big league pitcher, it’s special and it’s helping the team out.”
“Every at bat tonight seemed like it had something to do with us winning the game,” said Francona, “whether it was chipping in giving us an early lead or extending it late.
“When he’s himself, that’s why he hits .300 because he uses the entire field. Even when guys make pitches, he still has the ability like we saw when he hit the two-strike pitch to left field. Then you try to come in and he can pull it down the line. That looked a lot like him tonight.”
LEADING THE WAY
Napoli’s homer continued his stretch as the club leader in homers and RBI on the year. The deep fly was his fifth of the season and gave him 17 RBI.
Bauer (2-0) made a lot of pitches and nearly completed six frames, but exited with two outs in the sixth after a two-out double. He allowed three runs on three hits, walked a pair, and struck out four. He threw 106 pitches, 63 for strikes. The homer to Castellanos was the only damage done against the Tribe’s replacement starter.
“When he pitched ahead, I thought he was really good,” said Francona. “He ran a lot of deep counts. When he fell behind…Castellanos is hitting everybody right now. He’s driving the ball to right field, he’s hitting the ball out of the ball park, he’s hitting line drives to left. But when he would fall behind, that was when he had a tougher time, but they weren’t getting hits off of him, he just ran a lot of deep counts. So you look up in the sixth inning and he’s up over a hundred.”
INDIANS TAG FULMER
Detroit’s 23-year-old Fulmer (1-1), making his second MLB start, was tagged for five runs on ten hits in five innings on the night. He walked a pair but struck out six. He threw 57 of 92 pitches for strikes.
STOPPING THE HEART OF THE TIGERS
J.D. saw his season numbers drop to 4-for-24 (.167) on the year against Cleveland with four singles and seven strikeouts. Cabrera fell to 3-for-17 (.176) with three singles and four walks. Victor is now 6-for-23 (.261) with two doubles and one RBI.
The trio has just the one RBI against Indians pitching in six games. Cabrera’s hitting streak came to an end at nine games.
CASTELLANOS MAKES EIGHT GREAT
The homer from Castellanos extended his hitting streak to eight games in a row. The AL’s leading hitter drove in all three Tigers runs on the night. He notched two of the Tigers’ five hits.
Tigers outfielder Upton extended his hitting streak to seven with his sixth inning double to left that ended the night of Bauer. He was nearly gunned down at second base on a nice play off of the wall by Brantley.
PEREZ HEADING UNDER THE KNIFE
Indians backup catcher Roberto Perez will have surgery on his fractured right thumb on Friday. There is no timetable yet for his return.
The Indians will welcome in the world champion Kansas City Royals for a three-game series starting on Friday night. Danny Salazar (2-2, 2.40 ERA) will take the bump for the Indians. Yordano Ventura (2-1, 3.67) will counter for KC.
First pitch on Friday night is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak