The Indians got a quality start from Mike Clevinger and plenty of run support from the middle of the Cleveland lineup on Thursday in their sixth shutout of the season over the Detroit Tigers, 7-0.
For the 12th time this season, the Indians plated a half dozen runs or more against the Tigers in an unbelievable stretch of dominance over the cellar dwellers in the American League Central. Cleveland tallied an 18-1 record in their season series with Detroit, including wins in each of the last 17 games between the two clubs. The Indians (90-63) kept pace with the victorious Minnesota Twins to remain four games back in the division with nine to play, but more importantly, they pulled into a tie with the idle Tampa Bay Rays for the second Wild Card spot.
Before getting some of that run support, Clevinger got into a jam in the first inning. After striking out Victor Reyes, Harold Castro and Miguel Cabrera reached on back-to-back singles. Christin Stewart struck out swinging for the second out before Jeimer Candelario worked a five-pitch walk to load the bases. Jordy Mercer flied to Jordan Luplow in left to leave the bags full.
A leadoff double by Francisco Lindor set the stage for a first inning manufactured run by the Tribe against left-hander Daniel Norris. Oscar Mercado moved the runner to third on a sacrifice and a sac fly from Carlos Santana scored Lindor just ahead of the throw from Stewart in left to give the Indians the first run of the game.
Clevinger gave up a one-out single in the second to Grayson Greiner, but a perfect placed ricochet back to Luplow in left allowed the Indians outfielder to throw out the runner trying to advance to second. Cabrera singled for the second straight trip with two outs in the third before being stranded on a fly out to center by Stewart.
The Indians just missed a chance to expand their lead in the third. Mike Freeman and Lindor each singled with one down in the inning. Mercado blasted a long drive deep to left that hooked foul before he grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Clevinger retired the side in order in the fourth before his teammates added to the lead against reliever Drew VerHagen. Santana led off the frame with a single to center and advanced to second on a wild pitch. Yasiel Puig drove the next pitch to left, scoring Santana to give the Indians a 2-0 lead. Luplow grounded Puig over to third with the first out of the inning, but Franmil Reyes doubled Cleveland’s advantage to 4-0 with his eighth homer with the Tribe, parking a high slider deep to the bleachers.
Clevinger got out of another mess in the fifth on consecutive one-out singles by Willi Castro and V. Reyes. With runners on the corners, H. Castro grounded to first, with W. Castro unable to score. Cabrera grounded to Lindor leave a pair.
Cleveland put up another run in the fifth against VerHagen. Lindor doubled for his third hit in as many hits and a single from Mercado moved him across the plate to give the Indians a 5-0 lead. Santana flied to center before Puig put two on with a single to center. Edwin Jackson came on in relief for manager Ron Gardenhire and struck out pinch-hitter Greg Allen as both runners stole bases to get into scoring position. A walk by F. Reyes loaded the bases and Roberto Perez pushed two of those runners across with a single back up the middle to make it a 7-0 game. Yu Chang grounded out to leave the two remaining base runners.
Clevinger allowed his seventh hit of the game in the sixth as Candelario singled with one out, but the Tribe right-hander got his final two outs of the game by getting Mercer to ground to short before Dawel Lugo struck out swinging.
Tyler Clippard left V. Reyes at third in the seventh after his two-out triple and James Hoyt retired the side in order in the eighth. James Karinchak took over for the ninth, looking to secure win 18 against Detroit this season, and he finished the job after a one-out single by Ronny Rodriguez and a throwing error by Karinchak that allowed Greiner to reach safely. With two in scoring position, Karinchak threw seven of the next eight over the plate, striking out W. Castro looking and V. Reyes swinging.
Detroit is now 45-107 on the season.
The 17 straight wins by the Indians against the Tigers matched the longest winning streak by the team against any one club in a season, equaling the 17 straight victories against the Baltimore Orioles in 1954. It was the 15th shutout thrown by the Tribe this season.
“It’s not enough,” said manager Terry Francona of the Indians’ current situation in the standings. “We need more. I don’t know how many more, but I’m guessing we’ll need several more.”
Clevinger worked six shutout innings to move to 12-3 on the year. He allowed seven hits and a walk while striking out six to win for the eleventh time in 12 decisions. He threw 69 of 103 pitches for strikes. Clippard, Hoyt, and Karinchak allowed two hits while striking out three over three scoreless frames.
“We won a game, but we’ve got to win every game right now,” said the starter Clevinger. “So, that’s the way we’re looking at it going into each day.”
Norris fell to 3-13 on the year with a tough loss. He allowed a run on three hits with a strikeout with his pitch count being monitored, but VerHagen was tagged for six runs on seven hits while retiring just four batters.
Lindor had three hits in five trips and scored a pair of runs for the Tribe as he led the lineup. Puig scored twice in a two-hit game, while Perez used his two-hit game to plate a pair of runs. Reyes drove in two on his 35th homer of the season, while Mercado and Santana each added RBI.
Cabrera and V. Reyes each had two hits for the Tigers in the nine-hit shutout.
The Indians will start their final home series of the season on Friday when the Philadelphia Phillies come to town for a three-game interleague set from Progressive Field. Righty Shane Bieber (14-7, 3.26 ERA) will be the game one starter against Phillies lefty Drew Smyly (4-6, 6.22). Game time is scheduled for 7:10 PM ET.
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