An Indians lineup composed of bench pieces, recent minor league call-ups, and players getting in routine work while returning from injury challenged the Tigers on Sunday, but a ninth-inning rally fell just short as Detroit claimed a 6-4 win in Cleveland.
The Tigers (61-88) took a series from the Indians (83-66) for just the second time this season, improving to 6-13 against the Tribe this season. Cleveland owned Detroit throughout the year, outscoring the division rival 116-47 for the season. The Indians rested all of the regulars on Sunday, one day after formally clinching the American League Central crown for the third straight season, but the backups did their best to try to bring Cleveland another win.
It was a close game in the early innings and the Indians took a fourth inning lead, but a big fifth from the Tigers tipped the scales in their favor as a four-run frame put the game just out of reach for the hometown fans.
The Tigers used a pair of first inning hits off of rookie righty Shane Bieber to take the first lead of the game. Jeimer Candelario singled on the first pitch of the afternoon and moved to second on a single by Christin Stewart. A fielder’s choice force at second off of the bat of Nick Castellanos left runners standing on the corners, and cleanup man Jim Adduci hit a first pitch sacrifice fly to left-center to score Candelario before Bieber worked out of the jam.
The Indians got two big hits in the bottom of the first to match the Tigers’ run. After Rajai Davis started the home half with a swinging strikeout against veteran southpaw Francisco Liriano, Greg Allen doubled to right. Josh Donaldson struck out swinging for the second out before Yandy Diaz jumped on a second pitch changeup and sent it to center for an RBI-single to tie the game at one. Brandon Guyer joined Diaz on base after a single, but Brandon Barnes left the pair with a groundout to second.
Bieber worked around an infield single and a stolen base in the second and a two-out single in the fourth, keeping the Tigers off of the bases. The Tribe struggled to put anything together against Liriano in the second and third, but they found their way in the fourth with a big inning.
Diaz kicked off the inning with a double to right for his second hit in as many at bats. Guyer walked on five pitches before a strikeout looking by Barnes. Rookie Eric Haase swung at a first pitch four-seamer and sent it to left, scoring his former Columbus teammate Diaz from second base with his first Major League hit and RBI while giving the Indians a 2-1 lead. Erik Gonzalez stepped in with runners on second and third (after the duo moved up on the throw on Haase’s hit), and he grounded to short to push across Guyer with the third run of the day. Adam Rosales drew a two-out walk to put runners on the corners, but Davis struck out swinging to strand another two runners.
The 3-1 lead afforded to Bieber did not last long. Former Tribe farmhand Ronny Rodriguez started the fifth with a single to right. He was forced at second on a grounder by Victor Reyes. Candelario joined the base traffic with a single to right-center and Stewart singled to center, driving in Reyes to make it 3-2. Bieber struck out Castellanos on four straight strikes, but Adduci delivered the game-changer, sending a 1-2 slider out of the park to left to make it a 5-3 Tigers lead. Bieber allowed another hit before retiring the final out of the inning.
Given a two-run edge, Liriano locked in and shut down the Tribe, retiring the side in order in the fifth and facing the minimum in the sixth after plunking Guyer to start the inning and erasing him two batters later on a double play grounder. Three straight groundouts in the seventh ended his afternoon, still with a two-run advantage.
Bieber retired the side in the sixth before handing the ball over to the bullpen for the seventh. Andrew Miller pitched a perfect frame, getting three straight groundouts, but in the eighth, he allowed a one-out solo homer deep to the Home Run Porch to Mikie Mahtook to pad Detroit’s lead. Jon Edwards finished the final two outs of the inning and Adam Plutko got in work in the ninth, working around a pair of two-out hits by Candelario and Stewart.
The Indians were handled with ease in the eighth by All-Star reliever Joe Jimenez, but the lineup once again did some damage against closer Shane Greene. Back-to-back singles by Guyer and Barnes set the table for Haase, who moved both runners into better scoring position with a grounder to first. Gonzalez struck out swinging for the second out, but Rosales delivered an RBI-single to right to make it 6-4. With the tying runs on base and the winning run at the plate, Greene got Davis to pop up a first pitch slider just in back of second base to end the ball game.
Liriano won for the second time in the month and improved to 5-10 on the season with seven quality innings on the mound. He allowed three runs on five hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. Greene’s save in the ninth was his 30th of the year.
Bieber was banged up in the tough fifth, proving to be his undoing. He worked six innings in total, allowing five runs on nine hits with no walks and four strikeouts on the afternoon.
Candelario and Stewart set the stage for the Tigers with a pair of 3-for-5 days at the top of the lineup. Candelario scored twice. Adduci, hitting in the cleanup spot, drove in four runs with a sac fly and a three-run shot in the fifth.
Guyer reached all four trips to the plate, getting a pair of singles and a walk and suffering another bean ball while scoring half of the team’s runs. Diaz went 2-for-4 with a run scored and an RBI. Donaldson went 0-for-4 with a pair of strikeouts as he continues to find his bearings at the plate.
The Indians will take Monday off before starting the middle series of their homestand against the Chicago White Sox. The Tigers will return home to start a series with the Minnesota Twins.
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