Big things can come in smaller packages and Indians second baseman Jose Ramirez delivered repeatedly in the clutch for Cleveland on Saturday afternoon as the Tribe routed Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers by a 13-6 final.
It was the long-awaited return of offense to Progressive Field as the Indians rolled out a season-high 13 runs while riding four home runs balls against the Detroit pitching staff to even the series at one game apiece. Cleveland used 19 hits to put up multi-run innings in five different frames on the spring afternoon, doing the bulk of the damage against the Tigers ace Verlander.
Corey Kluber was the beneficiary of the run support, something that has not always been easy for him to come by. While he dominated Detroit early in the ball game, he would run into some trouble in the middle innings.
Kluber got the afternoon going in impressive fashion, striking out the side in order to start the game. His offense immediately got to work, with Francisco Lindor getting things started with a one-out single to center against Verlander. A walk by Michael Brantley put two on before a big strikeout by Edwin Encarnacion for the second out. On the brink of escaping unharmed, Verlander was touched up by Ramirez, who pulled a deep drive 410 feet to right for a big three-run blast to put Cleveland on top, 3-0.
The Indians’ right-hander Kluber worked around a one-out double by Justin Upton off of the wall in left but got out of the second inning with no damage done, bringing the bottom third of the Tribe order to the plate. After Yandy Diaz singled to start the inning, Abraham Almonte and Yan Gomes were retired, but again down to their final out of the inning, the Indians struck through off of Verlander as Carlos Santana exited the field to right with a two-out, two-run shot to expand the Cleveland lead to 5-0.
Kluber pushed his strikeout total to six through the first three innings with a pair of Ks in the third as the Indians would again pad his lead in the home half. With one out, Ramirez reached with a single to left center and came home on the very next pitch as Lonnie Chisenhall went big fly to right, pushing the Indians advantage to seven runs.
The Tigers touched up Kluber in the fourth. After a strikeout to start the inning, Miguel Cabrera doubled to center and came in to score on a single from Victor Martinez. Upton worked the count full before a deep drive to left for a two-run shot, cutting the Indians’ lead to 7-3.
Detroit refused to lay down in the contest as Verlander worked around a leadoff double from Santana in the bottom of the fourth to strand a runner at third base. The Tigers utilized a different approach against Kluber in the next half inning, aggressively swinging early in the count. On the second pitch of the inning, Jose Iglesias doubled to left, moved to third two pitches later on a groundout by Ian Kinsler, and scored one pitch later on a grounder to short from Nicholas Castellanos.
While the Tigers tried to chip away at the Cleveland lead, the Indians offense was not done in its breakout performance of the 2017 season. Ramirez reached for the third time in the game to start the bottom of the fifth and moved to second on a single to center by Chisenhall. Verlander was lifted by manager Brad Ausmus for Shane Greene, who walked Diaz to load the bases. Almonte grounded to first, with Cabrera coming home with the throw to cut down the lead runner. Gomes struck out swinging for the second out, but Santana singled to right, scoring both Chisenhall and Diaz with the eighth and ninth runs of the game before Almonte was thrown out trying to go to third.
Kluber would pitch into some brief trouble again in the sixth as he walked Upton with one out and gave up a single to right to Tyler Collins, but a pair of pop ups would end the inning. His teammates would load the bases with one out against Anibal Sanchez in the home half, but could not score, leading to what became a bit of a ball game the next inning.
The Tribe’s ace came back out for the seventh, getting a liner to start the inning before walking Kinsler and giving up a single to right to Castellanos. Andrew Miller entered in relief, but he was not his usual dominant self on the mound as he gave up a first pitch RBI-double to Cabrera. After a lineout from Martinez, Upton reached on an infield single to drive in Castellanos. A single from Collins for the second straight inning loaded the bases, but Miller got James McCann to line out to second to keep the score at 9-6.
The Indians were retired in order for the first time on the afternoon in the seventh, but they blew open the game for good the following inning against Sanchez. The former starter gave up a leadoff single to Lindor and a one-out walk to Encarnacion before Ramirez came through again with his second home run of the game to make it a 12-6 game. A single from Chisenhall and a double from Michael Martinez put two more on and Almonte drove in lucky number 13 with an infield single.
Cody Allen got to work the ninth, striking out a pair in a perfect inning in a non-save situation.
Cleveland (5-6) once again avoided the four-game losing streak with their big coming out party on Saturday. The club equaled its run production from each of the last four games of its homestand and rode four home runs to the victory. The Tigers (7-4) fell back into a tie with the Minnesota Twins atop the AL Central after surrendering a season-high for runs allowed. Detroit has allowed 11, 7, 11, and 13 runs in their four defeats this year.
KLUBER’S UGLY STAT SHEET
Kluber’s stat line was once again marred with extra runs, but he was able to pull off the victory as his club gave him a steady stream of run support throughout the game.
He was credited with six and one-third innings on the afternoon and was charged with six earned runs after two scored off of Miller in the seventh. He walked two and struck out six on 107 pitches. His ERA climbed to 6.38 despite earning his first win of the season.
VERLANDER ALLOWS CAREER-HIGH
Despite the long history that he has against the Indians, it has not always equated to good results on the mound for Verlander. He was charged with nine runs on Saturday in four innings of work. He allowed eleven hits, including three of the home runs on the day, walked one, and struck out four.
He fell to 19-22 in his 49 career starts against the Indians with the loss. Santana moved into first place on the home run list against Verlander, as he now has eight in his career against the right-hander (accounting for exactly half of his hits against him). He moved past Jim Thome with his second inning blast.
RAMIREZ’S ON-BASE STREAK
In his last seven plate appearances, Ramirez has reached safely every time over the last two games. He singled in each of his last two trips in Friday’s loss and reached safely all five times on Saturday, hitting a pair of three-run home runs, two singles, and a walk.
His six runs batted in were a career-high.
LINDOR EXTENDS STREAK
Lindor needed his final at bat on Friday night to extend his hitting streak. He wasted far less time on Saturday, as his first inning single pushed his hitting streak to nine games.
KS FOR DAYS
It was an ugly day at the plate for members of both teams.
Gomes took an 0-for-5 at the plate to see his average fall to .074. Even worse, he struck out four times.
The top two men in the Tigers lineup (Kinsler and Castellanos) combined for a single and a walk in ten trips to the plate. Each struck out three times in the contest.
DEFENDING THE LAND
It was a victorious day for the city of Cleveland’s active major sports franchises on Saturday. In addition to the resounding win by the Indians at Progressive Field, the next door neighbor Cleveland Cavaliers opened up their Eastern Conference first round series with the Indiana Pacers and held on in a nail-biter, 109-108, to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
GETTING SOME RELIEF
The Tigers recalled right-handed reliever Warwick Saupold from Triple-A Toledo prior to Saturday’s game and optioned right-hander William Cuevas back to Toledo after just one day and one outing with the club.
THE RUBBER MATCH
The Indians and Tigers will play at a third different time in three games in the holiday weekend set with Sunday afternoon’s scheduled 1:10 PM ET first pitch.
Carlos Carrasco (1-0, 2.13 ERA) will look for win number two of the season as he makes his third start. He will look to build off of a solid season against the Tigers last season, as he went 2-0 with a 0.51 ERA and a 0.74 WHIP in four starts, but it was Detroit which ended his season early when he was struck by a liner off of the bat of Kinsler in his fourth start against them. Left-hander Matt Boyd (1-1, 5.40) will take the mound for Detroit in his first career start against the Indians. He worked four and two-thirds innings of two-hit, scoreless relief against Cleveland last season. He is coming off of a good outing his last time out, when he held the Minnesota Twins to just one hit and earned his first win of the year.
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