Big games from Leonys Martin and Carlos Santana and seven shutout innings of work from Shane Bieber earned the Cleveland Indians a series win in Detroit with a 4-0 victory over the Tigers on Thursday afternoon.
The starting rotation has frequently been mentioned as the number one key to success for the Indians this season after offseason moves damaged the daily lineup taking the field. Bieber, the team’s number five starter, showed that he is far more than just a throwaway piece to the pitching staff, controlling the Tigers with seven dominant innings on the mound in his second start of the year. He was backed by some early run support from the offense, which tallied four single runs in the first, third, fourth, and seventh innings, to give him the edge, and he made it stand up at the end of the day.
Cleveland manufactured its first run with another two-out rally to take the lead on Detroit’s Spencer Turnbull in the first. Coming off of ten-strikeout performance in his last outing, Turnbull started strong by striking out Martin and Jose Ramirez to begin his start, but Jake Bauers singled to left-center. He stole second base, which came up as a significant swipe as Santana singled to center, scoring the Tribe’s left fielder from second base with the two-out RBI base knock.
Bieber worked out of a bit of a jam in the bottom of the second. He lost Niko Goodrum on a 3-2 fastball low to walk the leadoff hitter. He stole second before Dustin Peterson struck out looking. Goodrum moved to third on a wild pitch, but Bieber bounced back to strike out John Hicks before getting Grayson Greiner to ground to third to strand the runner at third.
Martin started the third with a bang with his second big blast of the series in his return to Motown. He drove a 3-1 fastball over the plate deep to the seats in right field for a solo shot, giving the Indians a 2-0 lead.
The Indians got to Turnbull again in the fourth in their most productive inning of the day. With one out, Kevin Plawecki singled to center. He moved to second on a single by Brad Miller and the pair moved up another base on a walk by Eric Stamets to load the bases. Martin singled to right, scoring Plawecki easily, but the throw from Goodrum to the cutoff man to the plate gunned down Miller attempting to score a second run from second base. With runners on the corners, Martin stole second base, but J. Ramirez lined to right to end the inning.
Bieber retired the side in order in the third and allowed a two-out single to Goodrum in the fourth. The Tigers turned to their bullpen for Turnbull after their half of the fourth, as their right-hander allowed three runs on eight hits with a walk and four strikeouts in four innings of work.
Blaine Hardy allowed a walk in two hitless innings of relief, but the Indians added one more to the scoreboard in the seventh against right-hander Drew VerHagen. Martin started the inning with his third hit of the day, doubling deep to center. After a pop out by J. Ramirez, Bauers drew a walk and Santana delivered again with an RBI-single to right-center to score Martin and give the Indians a 4-0 lead. Hanley Ramirez struck out for the second out and Bauers was caught trying to steal third with Tyler Naquin at the plate.
The Indians left the bags loaded in the eighth against Reed Garrett as Naquin drew a leadoff walk, Miller hit a ground rule double to left with one out, and Martin walked with two outs, but Garrett struck out J. Ramirez swinging as Cleveland was not able to expand its lead.
The Indians bullpen shut down the Tigers after Bieber departed with seven scoreless innings in the books. Needing just 13 pitches, the two relievers brought on closed the door on the 4-0 win, moving the Indians to 8-4 on the year and 3-3 on the road. The Tigers dropped back out of first, leapfrogged by the Indians, and are now 8-5 on the season and 4-2 at Comerica Park.
Bieber was fantastic in his second start and third overall appearance on the year in game number 12 for the Indians. He lasted seven innings, allowing just three hits and a walk while striking out six. The win was Bieber’s first of the season and improved his career record on the road to a perfect 8-0 in 12 starts with a 3.25 ERA and a 1.13 WHIP.
The three-hit tandem of Martin and Santana carried the offense. It was little surprise to see that production out of Santana, who has hits in ten of the team’s 12 games and has reached safely in eleven different contests. He went 3-for-3 on the day and reached all five times with a pair of walks. His three singles accounted for a pair of RBI and he was 2-for-2 on the day when batting with runners in scoring position. Martin fell a triple short of the cycle, hitting a solo homer and an RBI-single on the day while also walking. He was only retired via his first inning strikeout.
“I really like Comerica Park to play,” shared Martin after the game. “This is a big park, but at the same time, feel really good in Comerica Park. It’s not about the field. I just go to home plate every single at-bat to do my best.”
The bullpen was lights out and literally did not miss. Adam Cimber pitched the eighth as the first man summoned by Terry Francona and needed just six pitches (all strikes) to get a ground ball and two fly balls. Brad Hand worked in a non-save situation in the ninth, throwing all seven of his pitches for strikes with a pair of fly outs and a strikeout.
Stamet’s rough rookie debut continued on Thursday as he was hitless in four trips to the plate with a walk and three more strikeouts. He now has 19 strikeouts in 36 plate appearances on the year with two hits (.065 batting average) and three walks (.143 on-base percentage).
Hanley Ramirez’s line dropped to .188/.333/.406 at the plate with an 0-for-5 effort. He has struck out in 13 of his 39 plate appearances on the season with six hits (one double, two homers) and seven walks to his credit.
The struggles of J. Ramirez dating back to last August were extended another day as he went 0-for-5 with two more strikeouts on Thursday. It wrapped up a hitless series for the All-Star third baseman, who went 0-for-13 against the Tigers with three of his seven strikeouts on the season. His batting average has fallen from .194 at the start of this road trip to .136.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
The Indians move on to Kansas City for a three-game weekend set with the Royals in the second leg of their three-city road trip. They will follow up the stay in Missouri with three games in Seattle with the scorching-hot Mariners. The Tigers were to start a series in Minnesota this weekend, but inclement weather there has already caused the postponement of the series opener on Friday night. A doubleheader has been scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
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