For the 15th straight time this season, the Cleveland Indians knocked off the Detroit Tigers, earning a 7-2 win in the series opener from Progressive Field on Tuesday night.
The Indians used a well balanced offensive attack as seven of nine players reached base safely at least twice on the night. The 12-hit showing backed a quality start from Adam Plutko, who won for the third time against Detroit this season.
The Indians took the lead two batters in to the bottom of the first as the Tigers relied on a bullpen game with scheduled starter Matthew Boyd called away from the team for personal reasons. After Francisco Lindor lined to right to open up the home half of the inning, Oscar Mercado caught up with a hanging curveball from Zac Reininger and parked it over the wall in left for his 12th homer of the season to give the Indians an early 1-0 lead. The Indians missed a chance to add on more as Yasiel Puig’s two-out double went to waste on a groundout by Jake Bauers.
The Tigers manufactured a run in the third against Plutko to cut the deficit in half. Grayson Greiner hit a ground rule double that landed just out of the reach of Mercado in right-center. Willi Castro got the job done, moving the runner up to third with a grounder to first. Victor Reyes put his team on the board with a single to left to make it a 2-1 score.
The Indians put up three runs in the third to take a commanding lead. Mercado doubled and Carlos Santana walked to knock Reininger out of the game. Nick Ramirez came on and struck out Puig for the first out, but pinch-hitter Jordan Luplow supplied the game’s biggest hit, tripling to left to plate both Mercado and Santana to make it a 4-1 lead. Greg Allen grounded out to third before Freeman worked a walk. Perez came through again with an RBI-single to left to extend the lead to 5-1.
Plutko retired the side in order in the fourth before the Indians tacked on another run. With two outs, Santana reached on an error by Lugo at third and Puig singled to short. Luplow worked a walk off of Ramirez to load the bases, bringing manager Ron Gardenhire out of the dugout for pitcher John Schreiber. He gave the Tribe another run, walking Allen to force in Cleveland’s sixth run of the game, but he left the bags full as he followed with a strikeout of Freeman to end the inning.
Plutko retired five straight before Lugo took him deep to right to start the fifth, moving the score to 6-2. Greiner followed with a single, but Castro grounded into a double play and Reyes lined to center. Plutko pitched a perfect sixth with the final three outs of his ball game.
After Schreiber’s walk of Allen, he thrived on the mound. He put down the side in order in the fifth and sixth to retire the final seven batters that he faced. Gregory Soto took over for the Tigers in the bottom of the seventh and got out of a jam, stranding Allen at third (after his one-out double and an advance to third on a passed ball) and Perez at first (after a walk). Following a quiet eighth from Tyler Clippard, the Indians added one more run in the bottom of the inning as Santana doubled with two outs and scored on a single to left by Puig to give the Indians a five-run lead at 7-2.
Carlos Carrasco got in some work in the ninth, walking Miguel Cabrera. Pinch-runner Gordon Beckham stole second before Christin Stewart was hit on a 2-2 pitch to put two on, but Carrasco got a double play ball from Mercer for two outs before Rodriguez grounded to short.
The Indians moved to 88-63 on the year, keeping pace with the victorious Minnesota Twins. Cleveland trails in the American League Central by five games and is a half-game in back of Tampa for the second Wild Card spot. Detroit dropped to 45-105 on the year, 47.5 games off of the pace in the division. The Tigers are just 1-16 against the Indians this season.
Plutko worked six quality innings to improve to 3-0 against Detroit this season in four starts. He is now 7-4 on the season with a 4.34 ERA. He scattered two runs on four hits with a walk and six strikeouts on 87 pitches. Adam Cimber, Clippard, and Carrasco each worked hitless innings of relief, but all gave up a walk in their outings.
The Tigers’ bullpen game saw no pitcher record more than two and one-thirds innings of work. Reininger dropped to 0-3 as he allowed four runs on five hits in two innings. Ramirez was charged with two runs, but only one was earned, in a team low one and two-thirds innings.
Puig had three hits in five trips while driving in a run. Mercado went 2-for-5 with two runs scored and one run knocked in. Luplow had a pair of hits pinch-hitting for Bauers, including his two-run triple. Perez drove in a pair with his two-hit game. Andrew Velazquez, in his first game with the Indians after being recalled from Triple-A Columbus prior to the game, went 0-for-4 with four strikeouts.
The Tigers had just four hits on the day, with two coming from the catcher Greiner. Lugo and Reyes each drove in runs.
Prior to the game, Velazquez got the call-up from Columbus to replace Jason Kipnis. The Tribe’s long-time second baseman will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a broken hamate bone in his right hand, the same injury suffered by Jose Ramirez. Kipnis is expected to have surgery in the coming days.
Game two of the three-game set from downtown Cleveland is scheduled for a 7:10 PM ET start on Wednesday night. A pair of rookie right-handers will take the Progressive Field mound, as the Indians’ Aaron Civale (3-3, 1.93 ERA) will look to defeat Detroit for the third time this season, while Spencer Turnbull (3-15, 4.77) seeks to end an eleven-game losing streak.
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