The Indians dominated the Tigers a year ago and picked up where they left off to start the first of ten encounters with Detroit in 2020 as Cleveland batted around in a six-run fourth on the way to a 10-5 victory from Comerica Park on Friday night.
The pitching matchup in the series opener from Detroit pitted veteran right-hander Ivan Nova against second-year righty Aaron Civale. The Indians were taking on the Tigers for the first time this season, hoping to carry over a little bit of its success from the previous campaign in the new, shortened slate.
Nova retired the side in order in the first, but Civale had a brief scare in the home half. He walked Niko Goodrum to start the game. He later stole second and moved to third on a groundout by Miguel Cabrera, but Civale buckled down to get cleanup man Jonathan Schoop to fly to left to waste an early scoring opportunity.
The Indians punished Nova quickly for a mistake in the second. He walked Carlos Santana on five pitches to open the inning. He got ahead of his younger cousin Franmil Reyes with a pair of strikes before the Tribe slugger caught a curveball over the middle of the plate and belted it 462 feet over two sets of bushes in center field for a monstrous two-run home run, putting the Tribe on top.
That lead did not last the Indians long. Jeimer Candelario opened the second with a triple to deep center and he scored on a sacrifice fly from former Tribe farmhand Willi Castro two pitches later to make it a 2-1 game. After Nova retired the side in order in the third, the Tigers struck quickly on the first four pitches of the bottom of the frame to take the lead. JaCoby Jones drove a 1-1 pitch to right for a leadoff double. The next pitch was parked over the right field wall by Goodrum for a two-run home run, putting the Tigers on top, 3-2. Victor Reyes followed the scoring with a triple to right-center, but Civale left that runner standing at third as he got Cabrera to ground to third, Schoop to foul out to Sandy Leon, and Candelario to strike out swinging.
The Indians responded in the fourth in a big way with a needed outburst at the plate, sending ten men to bat while delivering the knockout blow to Nova. Francisco Lindor led things off with a single to left and C. Santana drew yet another walk. Reyes made it three RBI on the day as he singled to center to tie the game at three. A wild pitch moved both runners up and Tyler Naquin sent a hopper towards first. C. Santana got a good jump and beat Candelario’s throw to the plate with a head first slide to put the Tribe up, 4-3. Domingo Santana slapped three more runs on the board, catching a sinker in and sending it over the wall in left for a three-run home run, making it a 7-3 contest in a five-pitch, five-RBI span for the road team. Nova retired his first batter of the inning, getting Leon to ground to first, but Delino DeShields kept the inning moving with a single to left, bringing Ron Gardenhire out of the dugout to retrieve his starter. Derek Norris entered, but Cesar Hernandez singled to put runners on the corners and Jose Ramirez knocked another in with a grounder to third, making it an 8-3 game. Lindor, the tenth man to bat, grounded to short to end the onslaught.
Civale, who was not at his best on Friday, set down the side in order in the fourth and fifth before the Tigers got him for another run in the bottom of the sixth to ruin a bid for a fourth straight quality start. Back-to-back singles from Candelario and Castro with one down set the stage. A fielder’s choice by Cameron Maybin had the inning hanging in the balance, but Austin Romine delivered an RBI-single to right to score Candelario to make it 8-4. Jones grounded into a force at third, wasting a key opportunity for the Tigers as Civale’s night came to a close.
Norris left after the fifth for Detroit, replaced on the mound by right-hander Kyle Funkhouser. He walked one in a quiet sixth, but command issues in the seventh came back to bite him. He walked Ramirez to start the inning, then got the next two hitters. Reyes walked on five pitches to put two on before Naquin sent a 2-2 pitch to the gap in left-center for a two-run triple, extending the Cleveland lead to 10-4. Carson Fulmer took over and retired Bradley Zimmer for the final out of the inning.
The Indians bullpen prevented the Tigers from any dramatic late inning rallies. James Karinchak and Cam Hill pitched perfect innings in the seventh and eighth. Maybin tagged Dominic Leone with a leadoff homer in the ninth, but the veteran reliever got the next three in order, striking out Jones and Goodrum to end it.
The Indians moved to 11-9 on the season and jumped ahead of the Tigers in the American League Central standings. Now 5-5 on the road this year, the Indians are a game and a half in back of idle Minnesota, which was rained out on Friday. Detroit dropped to 9-8 on the year with its third straight loss.
The win for the Tribe marked their 18th consecutive win against the Tigers, dating back to April of last season. After dropping the second game of the season series against Detroit in 2019, the Indians proceeded to win the rest of the pairings to finish 18-1 against them for the year. It is the team’s longest winning streak against one opponent since 1954, when the team won 17 straight against the infant Baltimore Orioles.
Civale (2-2) was not at his peak form on Friday, but he did enough to help the Tribe win. He worked six innings, allowing four runs on eight hits with a walk and three strikeouts. He moved to 3-0 in his career against the Tigers in four starts.
“I had all of my pitches tonight, but I never had all of them at the same time,” he said after the game. “I just used what was working each inning and tried to keep us in the game.”
Nova (1-1) fell to 3-4 in his career against the Indians in a tough outing. He lasted just 53 pitches and ten outs, charged with eight runs on five hits with a pair of walks and just one strikeout in three and one-third innings. Tigers starting pitchers have now posted a 3-5 record with a 7.47 ERA this season through 17 games. The Detroit bullpen allowed just three hits over the final five and two-thirds innings, with Funkhouser the only one that struggled along the way.
Reyes remains locked in at the plate for the Tribe. He went 2-for-4 with a single, his third homer of the season, and three RBI to give him 13 on the season, one behind Ramirez for the team lead. He also drew a walk and scored three of the team’s ten runs. His homer in the second extended his hitting streak to seven games, and he finished the day with his average over the .300 mark at .304.
Prior to the game, both teams made roster moves. The Indians activated starting pitchers Mike Clevinger and Zach Plesac from the restricted list and optioned both in surprise fashion to the team’s alternate training site at Lake County. The Tigers activated the outfielder Maybin from the 10-day injured list and optioned outfielder Travis Demeritte to their own alternate training site in Toledo.
Game two of three from downtown Detroit is scheduled for a 6:10 PM ET first pitch on Saturday night. A pair of right-handers off to great starts will take the mound, as the Tigers’ Spencer Turnbull (2-0, 2.00 ERA) will oppose Indians’ ace Shane Bieber (3-0, 1.63).
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