A little taste of warm weather has heated up the Tribe bats as nine runs off of Detroit’s Michael Fulmer chased him in the fourth and paced the Indians to a 9-3 win and a four-game series sweep of the Tigers on Thursday night.
One night after the team rattled off four runs in the fourth and reached double digits in hits for the first time of the season, the Indians bats started hot and got hotter as the evening progressed. For the second straight game, eight of nine players in the starting lineup had at least one hit (with Edwin Encarnacion held hitless for the fifth straight game) while four players put up multi-hit efforts.
Two big innings to start the night would be more than enough support for Trevor Bauer (1-1), who got the starting nod and came out strong, striking out a pair before his teammates got to work quickly against the former All-Star Fulmer. Francisco Lindor engaged the right-hander in a nine-pitch battle, fouling off four pitches before driving a fastball over the wall in left for a leadoff homer to put the Tribe up 1-0. The bats would not be done, however, and they got a little unexpected help after a double by Jason Kipnis. Jose Ramirez moved him to third on a grounder to second and Michael Brantley grounded to first. Tigers first baseman Miguel Cabrera threw to the plate to stop Kipnis from scoring, but catcher John Hicks‘ throw to third skipped past third baseman Jeimer Candelario, allowing Kipnis to cross with the second run of the inning.
Bauer worked out of a bases loaded jam in the second after a one-out single by Victor Martinez and two-out base runners added by JaCoby Jones on a walk and by Jose Iglesias on a hit by pitch. A fielder’s choice grounder to short ended a big opportunity for the Tigers, and things would slip away from them in the next half inning.
The Indians bats got right back to work against Fulmer, who has had limited success against Cleveland in his career. Back-to-back singles by Roberto Perez and Tyler Naquin put runners on the corners to start the inning. After a strikeout by Bradley Zimmer, Lindor doubled home a pair on a first pitch fastball to double the Tribe’s advantage to 4-0. A groundout by Kipnis moved Lindor to third for Ramirez and he drove a 3-2 slider to right for a two-out, two-run home run to make it a 6-0 contest.
The Tigers got on the board with a two-out hit in the third. Leonys Martin, hot off a three-hit day on Wednesday, doubled to start the inning and moved to third two outs later. With the inning hanging in the balance, Nicholas Castellanos singled to center to make it a 6-1 game.
Fulmer retired the Indians in order in the third, but got back into trouble when his defense failed him again in the fourth. Naquin reached on an error at second by Dixon Machado to start the inning. A single to center by Zimmer put runners on the corners and Lindor was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Kipnis singled to right, scoring both Naquin and Zimmer to make it 8-1. Freshly called up Chad Bell came on in relief and got Ramirez to fly to right for the first out. Brantley popped up in foul territory for what should have been the second out, but the ball was dropped by Candelario and the Indians left fielder made the Tigers pay for the extra chance, doubling to deep right to score Lindor while moving Kipnis to third. Encarnacion was walked to load the bases, but Bell got out of the inning by striking out Yonder Alonso and getting Perez to ground into a fielder’s choice.
Bauer saw traffic on the bases every inning after the first until the sixth, when he struck out two in a perfect inning. He came back out for the seventh, giving up a one-out single to Martin and back-to-back two-out knocks from Cabrera and Castellanos, with the latter driving in the Tigers’ second run of the night.
The right-hander turned over the game to the bullpen in the eighth in garbage time. Nick Goody pitched an inning, giving up a leadoff double to Hicks and a double to Machado with one down that made the game 9-3 in favor of the Tribe. Matt Belisle took care of the ninth, setting down the side in order to complete the sweep.
The Tigers’ (4-8) disastrous trip through Cleveland dropped the team to 3-4 on the road, after beginning the road portion of their 2018 schedule with a three-game sweep in Chicago. They now return home to Comerica Park where they will host the New York Yankees.
With the win, the Indians have now won five straight games and six of their last seven.
BAUER GETS SUPPORT
Bauer did not have the easiest time on the mound on Thursday, but he did not have to pitch with too much pressure after the big lead given to him by the Tribe bats in the early innings. Just twice in his seven frames of work did he retire the side in order, racking up four of his seven strikeouts in those two innings. He was charged with two runs on seven hits while walking two and hitting one batter. He worked ahead often and threw a solid percentage of strikes (74 of 105 pitches), but the Tigers found ways to make it on base. Despite that, Bauer was able to keep that damage to a minimum, protecting the early advantage given to him to earn his first win of the ’18 campaign.
TROUBLE FOR THE TIGERS
One night after having to go to the bullpen in the first inning after starter Jordan Zimmermann was struck in the jaw by a liner, the Tigers had to go back to their bullpen early again as Fulmer, the best pitcher on the staff, was unable to retire a batter in the fourth inning. He worked three-plus, allowing nine runs (six earned) on eight hits with two homers allowed and a pair of strikeouts. The nine runs charged were a career-high.
His bullpen teammates did a solid job to stop the bleeding afterwards, as Bell and Joe Jimenez combined for five scoreless innings of work, despite allowing seven hits and a walk in that span. Bell did allow an inherited runner to score, but that unearned run was charged to Fulmer.
With their four-game sweep complete and a 6-1 start to their ten-game homestand, the Indians will welcome in the Toronto Blue Jays for a three-game set this weekend.
Mike Clevinger (1-0, 0.71 ERA) will be the first to the mound for the Tribe as they look to win their sixth straight game. The 27-year-old allowed his first run of the season on ten hits in a career-high seven and one-third innings in a no-decision his last time out against Kansas City. The Blue Jays will send out their ace, Marcus Stroman (0-1, 8.38), in the opener. The former 2012 first rounder took the loss in his last start, allowing five earned runs on six hits with three strikeouts and five walks in four and two-thirds innings against the Texas Rangers.
First pitch on Friday is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET from Progressive Field.
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