The Indians defended their home field winning streak as a two-run home run from Mike Napoli in the bottom of the seventh proved to be the difference as Cleveland held off the hot Detroit Tigers, 5-3, on the Fourth of July.
Napoli brought the fireworks after the Tigers had tied the game off of Danny Salazar with a two-run blast of their own in the bottom of the sixth inning. With reliever Bruce Rondon on to start the bottom of the seventh, he struck out Jason Kipnis swinging before walking Francisco Lindor on four pitches. After a ball fouled off, Napoli drove the next pitch 430 feet into the bleachers for the two-run blast, giving the Indians a 5-3 lead.
Bryan Shaw pitched the eighth, putting the first two on via hit and walk before a big double play grounder from Nick Castellanos and a fly ball to Lonnie Chisenhall in right ended the rally. Cody Allen walked James McCann with one down in the ninth, but Jose Iglesias grounded into what was initially called a fielder’s choice force out at second on the field. The relay throw to first was originally ruled to be late, but upon manager Terry Francona’s review, replay showed the throw barely beat the runner and the Indians had a victory.
“I didn’t even wait because we didn’t have anything to lose,” said Francona. “What I saw on the board looked like he was out. But I was glad they overturned it because Kinsler. I feel a lot better about our chances to win if he doesn’t get to hit. It’s harder for them to win that way.”
The save for Allen was his 18th in 20 tries this season. Rondon (2-1) took the loss, while Manship (1-1) earned the win with his one and one-third innings tossed in relief of Salazar.
The Indians took the early lead against the Tigers, something that they have done all season long. Against starter Daniel Norris in the second inning, Napoli doubled to lead off and scored on a single to center by Carlos Santana. They missed a big opportunity to score more, which would be a theme throughout the night, as Jose Ramirez followed with a double before Norris struck out a pair and got a groundout to end the inning.
After a leadoff walk to Rajai Davis in the third, Norris exited with an injury and gave the ball to rookie Dustin Molleken, making his first big league appearance. Kipnis doubled to right before Lindor’s sacrifice fly to center scored Davis to make it a 2-0 game. With Kipnis standing at third, Napoli struck out, Santana walked, and Ramirez popped out to end the threat.
Through three innings, Tribe starter Salazar had faced one over the minimum. He got into trouble, but fought his way out of it in the fourth inning after Cameron Maybin and Miguel Cabrera reached on singles. Salazar then punched out Victor Martinez, Castellanos, and Justin Upton to escape harm. It would not be that way in the fifth, when Steven Moya cut the Indians lead in half with a leadoff homer to right.
The Indians got a run back in the bottom of the frame as Davis and Kipnis each singled, ending Molleken’s outing. Alex Wilson came on and gave up another sacrifice fly to Lindor to center to make it a 3-1 game. Napoli and Santana would each walk to load the bases, but following the earlier theme, Ramirez and Gomes both struck out to waste a huge opportunity.
Those missed runs became an issue with two outs in the top of the next inning. Martinez singled to right and Castellanos homered to left off of Salazar to tie the game at three. After a walk to Upton and a single by Moya, the Indians starter was lifted for Jeff Manship, who struck out McCann swinging to end the inning while setting the stage two innings later for Napoli’s late heroics.
The Indians (50-32) extended their home winning streak to a dozen games, the longest streak in the Majors. It clinched the season series over the Tigers with nine games still remaining on the slate between the two clubs this season. The Indians are now 10-0 against Detroit and improved to 24-12 at home this season.
The Tigers’ (44-39) six-game winning streak came to an end as the Indians have now ended winning streaks of four, five, and six games by Detroit this season.
“For them to stick around all night, too, I don’t know, it’s something that makes me happy to be able to contribute and help us win,” said Napoli about being home in front of a large holiday crowd on a rainy night. “[Salazar] did a great job. Bullpen held it down and gave us a chance to score those runs. Any time we come away with a victory, I’m happy.
“Going on that long trip, some guys are pretty beat up and tired. Having this crowd it’s going to help us get through this and be able to play. It’s a huge win for us, we did it together, as a team. We’re going to try to win this series.”
HOMERS HURT SALAZAR
Salazar, who has struggled with control throughout the season leading to an increased walk total, had not had issues with the long ball. That script was flipped on Monday, as Salazar walked just one batter but surrendered two costly home runs to account for all three runs allowed. He gave up eight hits on the night while working five and two-thirds innings for the second consecutive start.
“Really good stuff. He left a changeup up for the home run that kinda changed the game a little bit,” said Francona. “He had had some traffic, but pitched out of it, but left one up [to Castellanos] and he hit it a long way. That kinda changed things. I thought he got a little tired, not that he had warmed up, but he had gone out and thrown before, and then we had to sit for a while.
“He has that gear, that other gear, that you can’t really teach that. And that’s the good thing with Danny is when he does create some traffic or allows some traffic, he doesn’t start nibbling. He reaches back and lets it go. He’s done that a lot this year. He gets out of his own jams.”
NORRIS LEAVES WITH INJURY
Norris, the Tigers starter, left in the third inning with what was later diagnosed as a right oblique strain. He will undergo an MRI on Tuesday to try to determine the grade of the strain, but it is a big blow to a Tigers rotation that is starting to get thin quickly.
RAMIREZ’S HITTING STREAK
Ramirez extended his hitting streak to nine straight games with his second inning double. He is now hitting .299 on the season.
NAPOLI LOVES THAT HOME COOKING
Napoli has put up impressive numbers at home this season, hitting .286 with 12 homers and 38 RBI. He is hitting .237 for the season. The home run in the seventh was his 17th of the season, moving him within one of tying Santana’s team lead. His two RBI extended his team leading total to 55.
“He had taken some good swings. Previous at bat he hit the double,” said Francona. “Even the at bat he struck out he took some pretty good swings. Man, it’s nice, because he’s done that so many times. We don’t probably live by the home run a ton, but when he’s up, man, that’s why he’s here. We certainly try not to run into outs because we like to get to him and let him take three good swings.”
BAD NIGHT FOR RUNNERS IN SCORING POSITION
The Indians’ struggles with runners on base, and especially in scoring position (1-for-8 on the night), was not a plight they shared alone. The Tigers had the same problem with runners in scoring position, going 0-for-8, with Upton going 0-for-3 himself.
MLB DEBUT FOR FORMER INDIANS MINOR LEAGUER
Molleken took over on the mound for Wilson in the third inning and made his Major League debut. He was called up earlier in the day from Triple-A Toledo. It was the second time this season he had been recalled, but he did not make an appearance during his first four-day stay with the club.
Molleken spent the 2015 season in the Indians organization, working as a reliever at Triple-A Columbus. He has spent parts of 13 years in the minors or foreign leagues.
ZIMMERMANN TO THE DL
In the move that created the roster spot for Molleken, the Tigers placed right-handed starter Jordan Zimmermann on the 15-day disabled list with a right neck sprain. He was expected to start the game on Tuesday night.
The Indians made a handful of surprising roster moves prior to Monday’s game as well.
Right-hander Mike Clevinger and left-hander T.J. House were recalled from Triple-A Columbus to provide the bullpen with some depth and length. Veteran lefty Tom Gorzelanny and righty Joba Chamberlain were designated for assignment.
GO AWAY, RAIN
The start of the game was delayed two hours and 21 minutes by rain.
The Tribe will look to defend their home field winning streak on Tuesday night and extend it to 13 as Carlos Carrasco (4-2, 2.56) takes on replacement starter Anibal Sanchez (5-8, 6.05). Sanchez, a long-time starter moved to the bullpen after struggling mightily to start the season, has made two relief appearances since his last start. That start came on June 25 against the Indians, when he allowed four runs on five hits (two homers) with two walks and three strikeouts in five innings in his eighth loss of the season.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images