On yet another chilly night from downtown Cleveland with minimal production from the Tribe offense, an eighth inning home run from Roberto Perez helped make up for an earlier error and pushed the Indians past the Detroit Tigers, 2-1.
The temperatures were still brisk on Tuesday night, but the 40-degree first pitch temperature was a marked improvement over the last three games in Cleveland, which have hovered at or near the freezing point. The Indians (6-5) won their season-high third straight game while playing in their seventh one-run contest of the year (they have claimed victories in three of those finals). Cleveland has been outscored 33-31 on the year while the offense has struggled mightily at the plate, but strong pitching and timely hitting have guided the team back to the top of the American League Central Division.
After his error helped the Tigers (4-6) tie the game in the top of the seventh, Perez had an opportunity to make amends for his second throwing error of the season. Leading off the bottom of the eighth against reliever Alex Wilson, he took a pair of sliders to start his at bat. Looking fastball, he got one and put a charge in it, sending it over the wall in front of the dual bullpens in right-center to put the Indians on top, 2-1.
Cody Allen pitched the ninth, sandwiching a strikeout in between a groundout and a fly out to earn his third save in as many chances this season.
The long ball would be the story of the game for the Indians, who also scored their other run via a jog around the bases.
Indians starter Josh Tomlin worked around some first inning trouble after giving up a one-out double to Jeimer Candelario and a two-out walk to Nicholas Castellanos. His counterpart, Tigers’ left-hander Matthew Boyd, retired the first two Indians batters of the night on outs in the air, but Jose Ramirez (using the bat of teammate Rajai Davis) jumped on a fastball and lined it over the 19-foot wall in left to give the Indians a 1-0 lead.
The homer, his second of the year, extended his on-base streak against the Tigers to 15 straight games. He would add another hit later in the game and is 3-for-5 in the first two games of the series against Detroit.
Tomlin, looking to recover from a rough outing to open the season against the Los Angeles Angels, worked with traffic nearly all night long, but he was able to protect his early lead. He stranded Niko Goodrum at second after he led off the second with a single. In the third, Tomlin hit Candelario in the knee with a pitch with one out before Miguel Cabrera singled to left. One out later, Victor Martinez walked to load the bases, but Tomlin got Goodrum to ground back to the mound to leave the bags full.
He retired the side in order in the fourth, but he once again had a visitor on the base paths in his fifth and final inning of work when Candelario doubled with one out. He would advance no further as Tomlin got Cabrera to ground out and Castellanos to strike out swinging to end the threat and his outing.
The Indians’ offense once again struggled to do anything at the plate. Perez walked to start the bottom of the third, but could not get past second base. Ramirez reached on an infield single to start the fourth, but was erased on a double play grounder by Edwin Encarnacion. Michael Brantley was hit by a pitch afterwards, but was erased on a fielder’s choice to end the inning. Perez got his first hit of the season with a one-out single to left in the fifth, but stayed put at first, and the lineup was retired in order in the sixth and seventh innings.
Zach McAllister worked a perfect sixth inning for the Tribe before the Tigers found the scoreboard in the seventh. Victor Reyes, facing reliever Tyler Olson, singled to right to start the inning to notch his first big league hit. He stole second on Dixon Machado’s strikeout and moved to third as the throw from Perez skipped past Jason Kipnis into center field. Dan Otero came on in relief and struck out pinch-hitter JaCoby Jones, but Candelario delivered his third hit of the game with an RBI-double to left, scoring Reyes to tie the game at one. Otero worked out of it with the go-ahead run in scoring position, getting Cabrera to ground to second on a nice play up the middle by Kipnis.
Andrew Miller earned his first win of the year for Cleveland after pitching a scoreless eighth inning, striking out the final batter that he faced.
TOMLIN BOUNCES BACK
Tomlin, making his first start since allowing eight runs in three innings against the Angels in his season debut, worked around a pair of bases loaded jams and managed some command problems to put up a good outing overall. He worked five scoreless innings, allowing four hits and a pair of walks with three strikeouts on 98 pitches.
“I felt a lot better,” shared Tomlin after his outing. “The command is still probably not where it needs to be or where I want it to be but it was close enough and we were able to get the win.”
BOYD BATTLES AGAIN
Boyd has pitched well throughout his brief career against the Indians, but has little to show for it. Tuesday was another such outing as he took a no-decision despite making a quality start, allowing just the one Ramirez run on three hits with four strikeouts and a walk in seven innings of work.
His second straight solid start to open the season dropped his ERA to 1.38.
ALLEN MOVES UP LEADERBOARD
Allen’s third save of the season was a big one in Indians history as it moved him past Chris Perez on the team’s all-time leaderboard for career saves. With 125 saves in 143 career chances, he now holds sole ownership of third place in franchise history in the relief statistic. Both men in front of him on the list are within striking distance this season, as the 29-year-old trails only Doug Jones (129) and Bob Wickman (139).
Allen is set to become a free agent after the season.
The two clubs will get back to work on Wednesday in the third of four games in the weekday series between Cleveland and Detroit. A pair of veteran right-handers, Carlos Carrasco (2-0, 5.40 ERA) and Jordan Zimmermann (0-0, 8.71) will square off.
Carrasco has stolen a pair of wins despite some rough innings pitched this season. He owns a 9-3 record over the Tigers in the last four years and went 4-1 against them last season with a 1.82 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP in six starts. Zimmermann has been pounded by the Tribe throughout his career and that continued last season, when he lost all three starts to the tune of a 9.22 ERA and a 1.98 WHIP. He has yet to earn a win against the Indians in his career.
Game time from Progressive Field is scheduled for a 6:10 PM ET start on Wednesday.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images