The Cleveland Indians blanked the host Detroit Tigers by a 2-0 final on Thursday afternoon to complete a three-game sweep while recording their fifth shutout in 15 wins this season against the Motor City Kitties.
The Indians knocked off the Tigers for the 14th straight time this season, a new club record for success against their neighbors from Detroit. They used a dominating start from Mike Clevinger, who won his ninth straight decision, and made two runs stand up to complete the needed sweep.
Clevinger saw little base traffic on the afternoon, but did have a scare in the bottom of the first. Former Tribe prospect Willi Castro, dealt by the club last summer for outfielder Leonys Martin, doubled an 0-2 pitch deep to right. He moved to third on a tough groundout up the middle by Harold Castro, but was stranded there as another former Indians farmhand, Ronny Rodriguez, flied to right.
The Indians were unable to do much in the early innings against Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris. He threw a perfect first and worked around a one-out walk by Yasiel Puig in the second. After Clevinger fired a 1-2-3 bottom half with a pair of strikeouts, the Tribe struck through for a run in the third with two men out. Francisco Lindor saw a strike looking and took a ball up before slapping a four-seamer the opposite way to right for his 25th homer of the season, giving the Indians the first lead of the afternoon. Oscar Mercado followed with a single to center but was stranded at first as Carlos Santana flied to right.
Two reached in the fourth for the Tribe, but the offense could not add to its lead. Facing reliever Drew VerHagen, Puig drew a walk, but he was eliminated on a double play grounder by Franmil Reyes. Yu Chang kept the inning alive with a single to third, but he was thrown out at home on a bloop single to left-center by Mike Freeman.
Clevinger retired nine in a row before the Tigers got another base runner with one out in the fourth. It was the club’s other Castro, Harold, who recorded a single to center, but Rodriguez struck out and Dawel Lugo grounded into a force at second to strand the team’s second base runner of the game.
The Indians left a runner at second in the fifth after a one-out single and stolen base by Greg Allen. VerHagen set down the lineup in order in the sixth and Clevinger got out of the home half of the inning as Kevin Plawecki threw out Victor Reyes trying to steal after singling with one out.
The Indians added another run in the seventh as VerHagen remained on for a fourth inning of work. Chang reached on an infield single, but was forced out at second on a fielder’s choice by Freeman. Plawecki made it first and third with a single to center. Allen loaded the bases when he was plunked by a pitch and Lindor sent a fly to right-center, deep enough to score the runner from third with his second RBI of the contest, making it a 2-0 Indians lead. Mercado left two as he struck out swinging to end the threat.
Clevinger retired the side in order the seventh and returned for the eighth. He struck out the first two men before Jordy Mercer singled to left, but Clevinger made it a moot point by striking out Jake Rogers looking to end the inning and his outing with his tenth strikeout of the game.
Brad Hand came on for the ninth, looking for his second save in as many games. He got Reyes to ground to second before W. Castro flied to right. John Hicks pinch-hit for H. Castro and struck out swinging on three pitches.
The Indians improved to 79-55 on the season and 38-28 away from Progressive Field. They remained three and a half games in back of the Minnesota Twins, who guaranteed a winning season with a 10-5 win over the Chicago White Sox. Detroit is now 39-92 on the year, 42 games in back of Minnesota. The Tigers have won just once in 16 contests against Cleveland this season.
“It wasn’t easy. Give them a lot of credit,” said Tribe manager Terry Francona after the game. “They used, I don’t know, four pitchers today. They all seemed to get us out. The center fielder made a play that potentially is a game changer…but we got a win. That’s what we showed up today for, so…good. Now we can move on.”
Clevinger moved to 10-2 on the season and lowered his ERA to 2.72 with another stellar start for the Tribe. He worked a season-high eight shutout innings, allowing just four hits and no walks while striking out ten. Twenty-four of his offerings to Tigers hitters were swung on and missed, nearly twice as many as the entire Detroit pitching staff had against the Indians lineup on the day. It marked his first outing without a free pass since July 27 against Kansas City. He has won nine straight decisions in an eleven-start stretch, giving him back-to-back months without a loss. He has allowed just one run over 14 innings against Detroit this season with 22 strikeouts and one walk.
Hand’s save was his 33rd in 38 chances. He needed just seven pitches, all of which were strikes.
Norris was finished after three innings, throwing 40 of 59 pitches for strikes. He was good for his three innings, allowing a run on two hits with a walk and four strikeouts, but the Tigers have been keeping an eye on his workload. VerHagen kept the game close in his four innings of relief, giving up a run on five hits with two strikeouts and one walk.
Lindor drove in both Tribe runs, using his 25th homer and a sacrifice fly to push his season RBI total to 60. Chang was the only player in either lineup to record a multi-hit game.
Detroit was without Miguel Cabrera for the second straight game. He left Tuesday’s game early with left biceps soreness.
While the weekday set against the Tigers went relatively easy for the Tribe, things will perk up this weekend as the team heads to Tampa Bay for a three-game series with the Rays, which trail the Indians by two and a half games in the American League Wild Card race. The Indians will deal Shane Bieber (12-6, 3.23 ERA), while the Rays will counter with right-hander Austin Pruitt (2-0, 5.57).
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