Using a four-homer fifth inning, the Cleveland Indians knocked out Detroit starter Justin Verlander to complete their third straight sweep and their third sweep in a row over the Tigers with a 9-3 victory at Comerica Park on Sunday.
The Tigers had just knotted the game back up at 2-2 in the bottom of the fourth with their second solo homer of the game off of Indians starter Josh Tomlin when his teammates decided it was their turn for home run derby.
On the first pitch of the fifth, Juan Uribe socked a Verlander offering just inside the left field foul pole for the leadoff shot to give the Tribe a 3-2 lead that they would never look back from. Two pitches later, Tyler Naquin sent Verlander’s pitch over the wall in right to make it 4-2. After Carlos Santana flied out and Michael Martinez struck out looking, Francisco Lindor singled to center and trotted around on a first pitch blast from Mike Napoli to left to make it 6-2. Jose Ramirez singled to center on the very next pitch to set the stage for Lonnie Chisenhall’s two-run shot to right, ending Verlander’s day and continuing his rough couple of years against the Indians after a four-homer, six-run inning made it an 8-2 deficit for the Tigers.
“It was kind of a team thing. We were getting fired up in the dugout,” said Chisenhall. “Hitting is contagious, maybe home runs are, too. We were getting fired and running some stuff out of the ball park. It’s fun to put up runs like that, and especially with Tomlin on the mound pitching and getting him a little bit of support.”
Given the final score and their play of late, it is tough to recall that the Indians actually trailed in the one-sided contest in the early innings and it was a pair of old friends who did the damage to Tribe starter Tomlin.
In the bottom of the third, Mike Aviles led off the inning and took Tomlin deep to left to give his Tigers a 1-0 lead. That advantage would not last long, however, as the Tribe retaliated quickly. Martinez walked to start the top of the fourth and moved to third on a single by Lindor. A wild pitch from Verlander scored Martinez before Napoli drew a walk. In a nine-pitch at bat, Ramirez lined out, but Chisenhall tilted the score in the Tribe’s favor with a single to right, scoring Lindor to give the Indians a 2-1 lead.
Victor Martinez, another former friend, tied the game at two with his one-out solo homer in the fourth off of Tomlin. He added a second to lead off the sixth with the game already well in the Indians favor.
Cleveland tacked on one more in the eighth off of reliever (and former starter) Shane Greene. Ramirez flied out before Chisenhall tripled to the wall in the right field corner. After fouling off several pitches, Yan Gomes delivered a single to center to score the runner from third and give the game its final 9-3 score.
The Indians (44-30) have now won nine in a row by claiming three consecutive sweeps over Chicago, Tampa Bay, and Detroit. They have won nine straight over the Tigers and will need just one more win to claim the season series over their next ten contests against Detroit. The Tigers (38-38), who came in hot off of a four-game sweep of the Seattle Mariners, were dealt the sweep by a Cleveland club that has dominated them all season. They trail Cleveland by seven games in the AL Central.
“It’s great. 9-0 versus anybody is good,” said Chisenhall. “We’ve had a tough time with these guys in the past and to win these ball games is great.”
TOMLIN GIVES QUALITY CONTRIBUTION
Tomlin (9-1, 3.32 ERA) worked quickly and relatively quietly through eight innings. He allowed three runs (all solo homers) on six hits. He walked one and struck out three on the afternoon.
“It’s been fun. It’s been like the past ten days, they’re out there in the eighth, ninth innings. They’re just doing work,” said Chisenhall of the effort of the starting rotation. “You can’t say much more about it. It’s a great staff. I know other teams believe it and we believe it and it’s fun to play behind.”
He has now won eight straight road decisions. He has been supported by plenty of offense this season by the Tribe, who have scored six or more for him ten different times this season. The Indians are 9-1 in those games, with Tomlin posting a 7-1 record in those opportunities.
VERLANDER WITH NO ANSWER FOR TRIBE
In his 46th career start against the Indians, Verlander (7-6, 4.30) was dealt another loss. He is now 18-21 against them in his career and 1-7 over the last three seasons in eleven outings. He entered with nine earned runs allowed against them in 12 innings, but tacked on eight more earned on Sunday in just four and two-thirds innings, to send his 6.75 ERA for the season skyward to 9.18.
His undoing was his disastrous fifth, when he gave up six runs. He struck out five and walked a pair while allowing nine hits (including four homers).
FOUR BLASTS IN THE FIFTH
For just the third time in franchise history, the Indians hit four homers in one inning.
The last time was on July 16, 2004, in Seattle against the Mariners. It was part of an eight-homer barrage at Safeco Field. The Indians hit back-to-back-to-back homers in the third inning (Matt Lawton, Victor Martinez, and Casey Blake), then hit four in the ninth as Ben Broussard, Martinez, Travis Hafner, and Jody Gerut each left the yard off of Julio Mateo and Mike Myers.
The previous time was historic, as on July 31, 1963, the Indians hit four consecutive homers off of Paul Foytack of the Los Angeles Angels in the bottom of the sixth inning from Cleveland Stadium. With two outs, Woodie Held, Pedro Ramos (the Indians starting pitcher), Tito Francona, and Larry Brown all left the yard to make a 5-1 Tribe lead a 9-1 edge in a 9-5 final in game two of a doubleheader.
The nine-game winning streak for the Indians is their longest since September of 2013, when Cleveland’s magical ten-game streak to finish the season catapulted the club into position to host the American League Wild Card Game.
With 44 wins on the year, the Indians have reached unfamiliar territory in recent years. The club has not been 14 games over the .500 mark since September 20, 2013, when they won a rain-shortened 2-1 victory at home over the Houston Astros in win two of a ten-game winning streak to close out the season.
14TH THREE-HIT GAME
With his single in the eighth inning, Lindor locked in his 14th three-hit game of the season, most in MLB.
Every Indians starter had at least one hit with the exception of Santana, who was 0-for-5 on the afternoon with two strikeouts.
Chisenhall led the way with four hits, including two singles, a triple, and a homer, while driving in three runs.
“You try not to fall into tendencies,” said Chisenhall. “They like to throw the ball in on me and I like to hit the ball the other way. Stay true to yourself, grinding. Guys in front and behind you let you see some pitches. Jose had a great at bat today. That stuff pays off in the long run where Jose sees ten pitches and everything he’s got and I’m able to stand on deck and see it.”
The Indians announced before the game that their starting rotation would be shuffled slightly in light of its recent heavy usage.
Corey Kluber, who was scheduled to start the opener in Atlanta on Monday, will be pushed back to Tuesday to get an extra day’s rest after his complete game shutout in his last start. Nothing is deemed wrong with Kluber, but the club wants to get him added rest.
Trevor Bauer will pitch in Kluber’s spot, on regular rest, because of last Thursday’s off day.
STOP NUMBER TWO
Cleveland is off to Atlanta for the second city tour of their ten-game, three-city road trip through Detroit, Atlanta, and Toronto.
Bauer (5-2, 3.20) will start the opener for the Indians, while 23-year-old rookie right-hander John Gant (1-2, 4.45) will take the mound for the Braves. It will mark the final series for the Indians at Turner Field before it is replaced in time for the 2017 season.
Photo: AP Photo/Duane Burleson