Mike Clevinger and the Cleveland bullpen blanked the Detroit Tigers on four hits as the Indians completed their ninth shutout of the season with a 4-0 win on Saturday.
Fans at Progressive Field were treated to an old fashion pitchers’ duel for much of the game as Clevinger and Justin Verlander went toe-to-toe in a rematch of last Sunday’s game at Comerica Park. Verlander looked much more like his former Cy Young self than the pitcher that the Indians had seen in two of his first three outings against them this season, but Clevinger matched him pitch for pitch in another solid start against the Tigers by the young right-hander.
Both pitchers dealt with obstacles on the base paths, but both teams were able to work around potential big innings.
Clevinger walked the first batter of the game before picking Ian Kinsler off of first base. Justin Upton would single on the next pitch, but would be stranded. J.D. Martinez led off the second with a double but moved no further and his next time up, he would draw a two-out walk and would again be stranded. Alex Avila singled with one down in the sixth in Clevinger’s final inning on the mound, but like those before him, he would move no further.
Verlander, who was rocked by the Indians his last time out, pitched with the same kind of traffic as Clevinger and was able to dodge trouble throughout the way. He would strand Jason Kipnis at third base in the first after his leadoff double. Carlos Santana doubled with two down in the second, but he would be stranded as Bradley Zimmer flied to left on the next pitch. Francisco Lindor walked on four pitches in the third, but his two-out free pass was wasted on a groundout by Michael Brantley. It was more of the same in the bottom of the fourth as the Indians put more runners on with two outs as Lonnie Chisenhall doubled and Santana was intentionally walked, but Zimmer struck out swinging.
It looked to be more of the same in the fifth when the Indians once again were staring down the prospects of a two-out rally. Yan Gomes and Erik Gonzalez both struck out to start the inning before Lindor singled to left-center. Brantley stepped in and after fouling off several pitches and taking a ball to work the count full, he doubled to right to drive Lindor in all the way from first to put the Indians up, 1-0. With a runner still standing in scoring position, Edwin Encarnacion struck out to end the threat.
Verlander worked around trouble again in the sixth after walking Jose Ramirez to start the inning. Two straight strikeouts put the inning in jeopardy, despite a theft of second by Ramirez, and Zimmer fouled out to end the frame.
Verlander would be knocked out of the game in the seventh after a one-out ground rule double from Gonzalez. Lindor popped to short for the second out before Brantley was intentionally walked and manager Brad Ausmus went to his bullpen to get Shane Greene to face Encarnacion. With two on and two outs, Encarnacion grounded into a force at second to end the inning.
After two strong innings of relief from Andrew Miller to keep it a 1-0 game, the Indians added some much needed insurance in the eighth against Bruce Rondon. After a strikeout by Ramirez in a lengthy at bat, Chisenhall drew an eleven-pitch walk. Santana followed with a double to right-center to score Chisenhall and he advanced to third on a throwing error by Kinsler. Zimmer, who had stranded four on base and three in scoring position through his first three trips, did not miss the fourth time around as he tripled to right to score Santana to make it 3-0. Gomes made it a three-run inning with a sacrifice fly to push across Zimmer, extending the lead to 4-0.
Cody Allen worked the ninth in a non-save situation, giving up a single to Miguel Cabrera with two outs before getting Martinez to line to second to end the ball game.
The Indians improved to 47-39 on the season with the victory and extended their lead in the AL Central to two and a half games over the Minnesota Twins and three games over the Kansas City Royals.
Clevinger is now 5-3 on the season with six scoreless innings on the night. After allowing two hits against Detroit on Sunday, he gave up just three more on Saturday while drastically decreasing his walk total while striking out four. Just one of those base runners reached second base. Verlander dropped to 5-6 with his third loss against Cleveland in four tries this year. It was a tough luck loss for the right-hander as he allowed just one run on six hits with four walks and six strikeouts on the night.
The Tigers were limited to four hits on the night, with all of them coming from the two through five hitters in the order. Detroit stranded five and was just 0-for-3 with runners in scoring position.
Gonzalez had two hits in three trips after taking over for Kipnis, who left the game after straining his right hamstring on a third inning grounder. Santana, hitting seventh in the order in his first game back off of the paternity list, had a pair of doubles. It was a night of wasted opportunities for the Indians, who stranded ten runners on base while going 1-for-10 with runners in scoring position.
It will be another national broadcast game on Sunday as the Indians and Tigers play in the final game of the 2017 regular season’s first half in an 8:05 PM ET start with ESPN airing the action. A pair of All-Star right-handers will match up as Corey Kluber (7-3, 2.85 ERA) and Michael Fulmer (8-6, 3.20) take center stage at Progressive Field. Kluber will look to extend his club record streak of five straight games with ten or more strikeouts, while Fulmer looks to build off of a win over the San Francisco Giants his last time out, when he allowed three runs on five hits in eight innings.
Because of their starts on Sunday, both pitchers have opted out of appearing in Tuesday’s All-Star Game.
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