The final score from Comerica Park was hardly indicative of what the Cleveland Indians did to the Detroit Tigers in a big 11-8 win on Sunday to take the abbreviated three-game series from an American League Central rival.
Putting up multiple runs in the second, third, fourth, and sixth innings, the Indians were able to chase Tigers starter Justin Verlander early with another lopsided drubbing of Detroit’s veteran ace. Had it not been for six ninth-inning runs in a last-ditch effort by the Motor City Kitties, the Indians would not have had to call upon the services of one of their closers to wrap up things from Michigan.
It was the Tigers who had the first big chance to score on Sunday. Indians starter Mike Clevinger pitched into, and then out of, a jam before his offense would give him some wiggle room on the mound. Alex Avila, J.D. Martinez, and Nicholas Castellanos all walked, around a Miguel Cabrera strikeout with two on and one out. With the bases loaded after Castellanos’ walk, Victor Martinez lined to left.
After going down in order in the first, the Indians found much more success in the second. Jose Ramirez singled with one down before Lonnie Chisenhall, on the ninth pitch of his at bat, homered to right to plate a pair and give the Indians the early 2-0 lead. The Indians would load the bases on a walk and a pair of singles with only one out, but two outs in the air left three stranded.
Clevinger worked an easier second inning before the offense got back to work against Verlander. After two men were down in the inning, Ramirez homered to right to make it a 3-0 game. Chisenhall drew seven more pitches in his second at bat of the game, working a walk, and Carlos Santana followed with an RBI-double to right-center to make it a four-run Indians lead.
The Tigers got on the board in the third as walks continued to haunt Clevinger. Jose Iglesias drew the dreaded leadoff walk before a fly out by Avila. Martinez drove home his shortstop with a double to left to make it a 4-1 game.
For the third straight inning, the Indians would put up a big frame and would drive Verlander from the start. Jason Kipnis walked, but was forced at second on a fielder’s choice by Francisco Lindor. Michael Brantley moved him to third on a single to right and Edwin Encarnacion singled Lindor home, making it a 5-1 game while ending Verlander’s afternoon. Left-hander Chad Bell entered and quickly allowed both base runners to move up on a double steal before Ramirez left the yard with his second shot of the game. The three-run blast, his 15th of the year and the second time this season that he has homered from both sides of the plate in one game, made it an 8-1 game.
Clevinger retired seven straight before giving up a two-out single to J.D. Martinez in the fifth, but he would be left standing there as the young Indians pitcher struck out Cabrera for the second time. He retired all three outs in the inning via strikeout.
Bell was back out to pitch in his third different inning in relief in the sixth, but the Indians would put up a big inning against him to expand their lead. Lindor singled and one out later, Encarnacion tripled to center to drive in a run. Ramirez was intentionally walked and Chisenhall drew a six-pitch walk to load the bases. Santana unloaded a couple of the base runners with a double that scored both Encarnacion and Ramirez to make it an 11-1 score.
Clevinger retired the side in order in the bottom of the sixth before handing the ball over to the bullpen to finish the day. Nick Goody allowed a run in the seventh with two outs as his own throwing error gave the Tigers an extra out and James McCann knocked in a run with a single to make it 11-2.
Things got a little ugly in the ninth as the Tigers put up more offense in one inning than they had the rest of the game. Boone Logan was on to wrap up the day and get the Indians motoring back to Cleveland after the pitching staff had allowed just four hits through the first eight innings, but he allowed back-to-back singles to Andrew Romine and Dixon Machado to start the inning before a fly to center by Iglesias for the first out. Avila singled home Romine and McCann cleared the bases with a three-run homer to left-center to make it 11-6. After a single by Matt den Dekker, Shawn Armstrong took over for the Tribe’s left-hander. Castellanos took him deep two pitches later and suddenly, it was a three-run game. A groundout by Victor Martinez registered the second out of the inning, but Mikie Mahtook singled to center and manager Terry Francona was forced to go back to his bullpen, bringing on Cody Allen. He needed three pitches to end the game and earn his 16th save, getting the tenth batter of the inning, Romine, to ground back to the mound.
The Indians are now 44-37, eight games in front of the 36-45 Tigers. With the Kansas City Royals win over the Minnesota Twins on Sunday afternoon, the Indians hold a three-game lead over both clubs with a week to go before the All-Star break.
CLEVINGER COMES UP BIG
His elevated walk total notwithstanding, Clevinger (4-3) nearly replicated his career-best performance of just one start prior with another quality effort on the mound. He worked six innings and allowed just two Tigers to reach base on hits. He allowed one run, walked five, and struck out seven on 99 pitches to earn his fourth win of the season.
INDIANS VEXING TO VERLANDER
For the second time this season, the Indians ran up the score against their long-time nemesis Verlander.
The Tigers right-hander lasted just three and one-third innings and was tagged for seven runs on nine hits. He walked three and gave up a pair of home runs while needing 96 pitches to retire just ten batters on the afternoon.
By chasing Verlander early, the Indians ended a long streak of consecutive games for the Tigers starter with at least one strikeout at 331 games. He last made a start without striking out an opposing hitter on April 28, 2007, when he pitched just three innings against the Minnesota Twins (h/t ESPN).
RAMIREZ’S MULTI-HIT MADNESS
Ramirez was once again a key contributor to the Tribe’s offensive success. He was 3-for-4 at the plate with a single, a walk, and his two home runs. He scored all four times that he reached base, a season-high that matched his career-high of four set on August 12 of last season. He also extended his hitting streak to five straight games and has homered in his last two games. Each of the last four games have included an extra base hit. He became the first Indians player ever to hit homers from both sides of the plate twice in the same season (h/t SportsTime Ohio).
He has more multi-hit games this season (27) than games without a hit (22).
NO UPTON AGAIN
For the third straight game, the Tigers were without the services of outfielder Justin Upton, who was sidelined again with right side soreness.
With their trip to Detroit complete, the Indians will return home to close out the unofficial first half of the 2017 season, after Monday’s off day. The San Diego Padres will come to town for three beginning Tuesday night, with the Tigers returning to Cleveland for a three-game set over the weekend.
Corey Kluber is scheduled to start the series opener with the Padres on Tuesday night.
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