Three-Run Fifth Powers Tribe Past Tigers; Indians 4, Tigers 2
Bob Toth | On 15, Jun 2019
For four innings, the Indians could not strike through against left-hander Gregory Soto, fresh up from Triple-A Toledo to head up a bullpen game for the Tigers. Once he left the mound, the Indians put together a big inning and used another strong pitching performance from Bieber, who struck out a dozen, to hold on for victory.
The Indians missed several early scoring opportunities, starting in the first when Soto walked Carlos Santana and Jordan Luplow with two outs, but Jose Ramirez popped to first to end the threat. A one-out walk by Kevin Plawecki was wasted in the second and the team failed to deliver again with two outs in the third. Oscar Mercado singled with one down and stole second. Santana struck out for the second out before Luplow drew his second walk of the day. Ramirez, in his second chance with runners on first and second and two outs, put another ball in the air, flying out to center. The Indians missed again in the fourth, stranding two more on the bases after a one-out Plawecki single and a throwing error by Niko Goodrum with two outs that allowed Leonys Martin to reach. Francisco Lindor grounded into a fielder’s choice force to make it seven men left on the diamond.
Bieber retired the first 12 men in order (including a strikeout in the first and second and two in the third and fourth) before his offense gave him some support in the fifth. Reliever Ramirez came on from manager Ron Gardenhire’s bullpen and allowed the first three to reach as Mercado singled to the pitcher, Santana singled to right, and Luplow doubled home Mercado to make it 1-0. Ramirez put a third ball in the air on the day, this time deep enough to score a run as Santana crossed the plate on the sacrifice fly. Jason Kipnis moved the runner Luplow to third on a grounder to first and Plawecki’s infield single to third plated him to give Cleveland a 3-0 lead.
Bieber allowed his first base runner of the game to start the bottom of the fifth. Miguel Cabrera singled to center, but Brandon Dixon lined out before back-to-back strikeouts of Harold Castro and Ronny Rodriguez, giving Bieber eight strikeouts through five.
The Indians stranded two more in the sixth against Ramirez. Lindor singled with one out and stole second. Santana walked and the pair pulled off a double steal before Luplow popped to first. Gardenhire was ejected with one out in the inning as he was barking from the dugout over balls and strikes.
Bieber struck out the side in order in the bottom of the sixth, getting all three men swinging to give him eleven strikeouts and his third double-digit K performance of the year. The Tigers, however, got to him as the first four reached in the bottom of the seventh to make it a bit of a ball game again. Christin Stewart drew a four-pitch walk to open up the frame and moved to second on a single by Nick Castellanos. Cabrera loaded the bases with his second hit of the game and Dixon sent the next pitch to left-center to score both Stewart and Castellanos to make it a 3-2 game. With two on and still nobody out, Bieber stepped up big, striking out Castro swinging on three straight curveballs before getting Rodriguez to ground into an unusual 5-4-5 double play. Rodriguez’s chopper to Ramirez nearly resulted in Cabrera being tagged out, but he avoided it. Ramirez instead threw to second to force Dixon and Kipnis fired back to Ramirez, who was able to tag out Cabrera, who had come to a stop before having to restart on his bad knee while previously trying to avoid Ramirez’s tag.
The Indians got a big insurance run in most unconventional of fashions in the eighth to pad their lead after the bizarre end to the seventh. With Victor Alcantara on the mound for his first work of the night, Martin greeted him with a swing on the first pitch, doubling to right. He moved to third on a fly out by Lindor, but Mercado’s grounder to third was unable to get Martin home. With Santana at the plate, Martin read Alcantara’s slow delivery, which includes taking his eyes off of the runner while looking towards the ground. Martin broke to the plate and was halfway home before Alcantara stood back up, stepped off the mound, and fired to Hicks. Martin’s headfirst slide may have beat the throw anyways, but the ball was jarred out of Hicks’ glove as Martin pulled off a most-improbable straight steal of home to put the Indians up 4-2. Santana grounded out to end the inning.
The Tigers saw Bieber return to the mound for the eighth and he retired the first two before handing the ball over to manager Terry Francona, who brought out southpaw Oliver Perez. He allowed the tying run to come to the plate after Goodrum doubled, but he recovered to strike out Stewart swinging.
Joe Jimenez retired the side in order for the Tigers in the ninth before Detroit gave Cleveland one final scare. With Brad Hand on and his consecutive save streak on the line, the left-hander got Castellanos to fly to right for the first out before Cabrera recorded his third hit of the game with a double to left. Gordon Beckham replaced him at second as a pinch-runner. Seven of the next eight pitches from Hand were strikes, as he K’d Dixon on four straight sliders and got pinch-hitter JaCoby Jones to cut and miss on three straight after a first-pitch ball to end the contest.
The Tribe moved to 36-33 on the year and 16-16 on the road in taking the middle game of three from Detroit while earning another series win. The Tigers dropped to 25-42 on the season.
Bieber’s tightrope act in the seventh led to the only real blemishes on his scorecard. He lasted seven and two-thirds innings of two-run baseball, striking out a dozen Tigers hitters on the day. He allowed four hits (with the first not coming until the fifth and the other three coming in the seventh) and walked one.
“I was definitely pretty antsy to get back out there,” Bieber said, recalling his previous subpar effort on the mound against the New York Yankees. “Fortunately, I was able to hit the ground running.
“It seemed like the slider and the curveball were getting a good amount of swings and misses and keeping guys off balance. Those were relied on today.”
Bieber is now 6-2 on the season and lowered his ERA to 3.92.
The Indians bullpen struck out three of the six batters that it faced. Perez earned his sixth hold while Hand saved his 20th.
Soto was inconsistent for the Tigers in the start, but he dodged several big bullets to throw four scoreless innings. He allowed two hits and walked four while striking out three. Ramirez was charged with all three runs in the fifth and allowed six hits and a walk over three innings to take his first loss.
The Indians survived a game in which things were not working well at the plate. The team went 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and stranded eleven.
Trevor Bauer (4-6, 3.71 ERA) will look to earn the Indians a series sweep over the Tigers on Sunday afternoon in a 1:10 PM ET first pitch against right-hander Spencer Turnbull (3-5, 2.78). Bauer walked five in his last start on Tuesday against the Cincinnati Reds, allowing a run over seven and two-thirds innings in a no-decision. He will look to end a five-game losing skid. Turnbull lasted six shutout innings in a no-decision in his last start against Kansas City on Tuesday.
Photo: Duane Burleson/Getty Images