The last time Cleveland and Detroit met on the diamond, starter Michael Fulmer ran away with an easy 12-2 win on July 6 to end the Tigers’ eleven-game losing streak against the Indians to start the season
Cleveland returned the favor on Friday night as they knocked around Fulmer for six earned runs on the way to an 11-4 demolition of Detroit to start their nine-game homestand.
The Indians scored in each of the first two innings and piled on plenty of insurance the rest of the way for its ace, Corey Kluber, scoring in each of the final four innings to post the big victory over the Tigers. The win for the Indians (85-62) dropped the Tigers (78-69) to seven games in back in the AL Central while reducing Cleveland’s magic number to single digits at nine. Detroit is now 36-37 on the road, while the Tribe continued its home field advantage this season, improving to 48-25 on the year.
The Tigers gifted the Tribe to two early runs on a bizarre play in the first after Carlos Santana lined out to deep center. Jason Kipnis and Francisco Lindor each singled with one out, putting runners on the corners for Mike Napoli. Lindor picked off second before Napoli lifted a mile-high fly to deep left field. Justin Upton stared into the sky, but could not see the ball, which landed well behind him to his left, bouncing hard off of the warning track and over the 19-foot wall in left field for a two-run ground-rule double.
After retiring the first two in the second, Detroit cut the deficit in half as Upton made amends with a big solo homer in front of the bullpen in right-center off of Kluber to make it a 2-1 Indians lead.
Cleveland responded with a pair of runs again in the bottom half to extend its lead to 4-1. Tyler Naquin and Abraham Almonte each singled before a sacrifice bunt from Roberto Perez. Santana plated both with a single to right, but would be stranded at third after outs by Kipnis and Lindor.
Kluber worked around some issues in the fourth, when Victor Martinez singled and Upton was walked with one out, bringing the tying run to the plate. Kluber got Erick Aybar to foul out to first before striking out James McCann swinging to end the threat.
Napoli continued to display his power at the plate in the fifth after a leadoff walk from Kipnis. One out later, Napoli deposited another souvenir onto the Home Run Porch to make it a 6-1 Cleveland advantage.
Upton was not done with Kluber as the Tigers retaliated with a big three-run blast as free base runners came back to haunt the Indians starter. Miguel Cabrera led off the inning with a walk before Martinez was plunked in the right shin. After a fly out from J.D. Martinez, Upton teed off on a deep drive to center to make it a 6-4 game.
The Tigers would get no closer as the Indians would jump on the relief staff to pad their lead.
Naquin singled off of former starter Shane Greene and Almonte moved him to third with a double. Perez hit a fly to center that a diving Cameron Maybin caught, but his throw to second to double up Almonte was wide left, allowing Almonte to move to third with Naquin already well on his way to homey. Almonte would be stranded on back-to-back outs from Santana and Kipnis.
Jose Ramirez came through in the clutch once again in the seventh, driving home Napoli on a single to right after the Indians cleanup man singled to left with one out and advanced to second on the second balk of the night by Tigers pitching.
Kluber left after seven, giving the ball to Andrew Miller, who walked one and struck out two against the team that drafted him with the sixth overall pick of the first round back in 2006.
In their last at bats, the Tribe tacked on three more to erase what little doubt may have been left. Joe Mantiply started the inning for Tigers manager Brad Ausmus and walked the leadoff man Almonte, who was lifted for pinch-runner Rajai Davis. Davis picked off second against his former club and moved to third on a throwing error before Perez singled him home to make it 9-4. Santana singled to put two on for Kipnis, who scored Perez on a ground-rule double to right-center. An intentional walk to Lindor loaded the bases and brought former Indian Mark Lowe out of the bullpen. He struck out Napoli, but Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly to center to score Santana to make it a seven-run lead at 11-4.
Dan Otero closed out the contest, striking out a pair to secure the big victory to push the Indians lead in the division to seven games.
KLUBER CONTINUES CY CASE
In his 30th start of the season, Kluber (17-9, 3.12 ERA) left after seven completed innings, giving up four runs on five hits with three walks and seven strikeouts. It was his second win in September and marked the eighth time in his last ten starts that he has taken home a W. In that 8-1 span on the mound, the Indians have won nine times.
The Indians have scored seven runs or more in four of Kluber’s last five starts. Kluber is now 8-1 in a dozen starts in the second half of the season.
Fulmer (10-7, 3.03) hung around for a while, but the Indians pushed his ERA back over the three mark with their six-run outburst against the AL Rookie of the Year candidate. He lasted five innings, walking three and striking out three on the night.
NAPOLI SHOWS OFF THE POWER
Napoli was a nearly unstoppable force in the Indians lineup on Friday night, going 3-for-4 with a walk, two runs scored, and four RBI.
Napoli is now slashing .251/.344/.496 on the season with 34 homers and 98 RBI.
UNLOADING THE BASES
The Indians had 18 at bats logged with runners in scoring position on the night and had six hits. Napoli had a pair, while Kipnis, Santana, Ramirez, and Perez each had one. The team left seven runners on base.
By comparison, the Tigers were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position with six runners left on base as a team.
UP UP AND AWAY
Upton was 2-for-3 at the plate for the Tigers with two homers and a walk with one strikeout. He drove in four runs on his two blasts, which pushed his season totals to 24 homers and 74 RBI.
Catcher Yan Gomes, who had been expected to be activated from the 60-day disabled list after completing his rehab work at Double-A Akron, instead will remain sidelined. The team announced that in his final at bat of Wednesday’s RubberDucks’ win over the Trenton Thunder, Gomes suffered a non-displaced fracture of one of the metacarpal bones in his right hand/wrist.
He is expected to miss the regular season and, if applicable, most or all of the playoffs.
The Indians and Tigers will meet again on Saturday afternoon in a 4:10 PM ET first pitch on FS1. Carlos Carrasco (11-8, 3.32) will toe the rubber for the Tribe while the Tigers counter with right-hander Justin Verlander (14-8, 3.33). Carrasco has made a pair of starts against Detroit this season, earning a pair of wins with a microscopic 0.51 ERA (one run over 17 2/3 innings of work). Verlander has failed to earn a win in each of his last three outings and he has dropped three straight games to Cleveland this season, posting an 0-3 record with a 9.18 ERA and 1.68 WHIP.
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