Shane Bieber struck out eleven Tigers hitters over seven shutout innings while the Indians made Detroit starter Spencer Turnbull work hard and exit before the fifth was complete in a 3-1 Cleveland victory on Saturday night.
The Indians (12-9) moved back above the .500 mark on the road this season one night after an offensive eruption in the series opener on Friday night from Comerica Park. While the offense was only able to provide three runs in the second game from Detroit, Bieber did not need much support as he took matters into his own hands in another dominating effort on the mound.
Cleveland recorded hits in each of the first two innings against Turnbull, but was unable to turn those runners into runs scored. Jose Ramirez singled with one out in the first and stole second, but Francisco Lindor flied to right and Carlos Santana struck out swinging. Domingo Santana singled with two outs in the second, but was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into two bases.
Bieber retired the side in order in the first before Jonathan Schoop kicked off the second with a double. He was caught trying to advance on a fielder’s choice grounder to Santana for the first out, and with Jeimer Candelario now the runner at first, Bieber struck out Christin Stewart and Cameron Maybin swinging.
The Indians scratched across the first runs of the game in a long third inning for Turnbull. Facing a bottom of the lineup with abysmal performances at the plate this season, he walked catcher Sandy Leon and outfielder Oscar Mercado in back-to-back seven-pitch at bats. Cesar Hernandez dropped down a well-placed bunt back to the mound to load the bases and Ramirez put the Tribe on the board one pitch later with a double over the head of the right fielder, scoring both Leon and Mercado to give the Indians a 2-0 lead. Lindor struck out swinging for the first out before Santana drew a six-pitch walk to reload the bases, but the hot Franmil Reyes grounded to short to start an inning-ending double play to close a 33-pitch inning.
The Tigers got a runner to third in the third, but could not score. After strikeouts by Austin Romine and Victor Reyes, Niko Goodrum walked, stole second, and moved to third on a wild pitch. Bieber used the next pitch to paint the corner on former Tribe farmhand Willi Castro to end the inning.
Turnbull worked around a two-out double by Leon in the fourth, while Bieber struck out the side in the home half, giving him eight straight outs via strikeout. He made it nine with a strikeout of Stewart to start the fifth, but only after the Indians padded their lead. Ramirez walked with one out and stole his second bag of the night. Lindor struck out swinging for the second straight at bat, but the slumping C. Santana delivered with a double to the left-center gap, driving in Ramirez to make it 3-0. John Schreiber entered in relief of Turnbull, who was at 97 pitches, and got F. Reyes to fly to right.
After Stewart’s strikeout to start the bottom half, Maybin grounded out. Romine singled to right and advanced to second on a wild pitch, but Bieber got his tenth strikeout through five innings by setting down V. Reyes swinging.
The Indians had a brief threat in the seventh, but could not deliver against Jose Cisnero. Hernandez and Ramirez drew one-out walks, but Lindor lined out and C. Santana struck out swinging to strand a pair.
For the first time on the night, the Tigers got two runners on base against Bieber and brought the tying run to the plate in a tense seventh. Schoop reached on an error by Ramirez. After Candelario struck out swinging for Bieber’s 11th K, Stewart singled to right for the third Tigers’ hit of the game. With the potential tying run at the plate in Maybin, he sent the first pitch bounding towards short to start a double play to kill the Tigers rally.
Cleveland left more runners on base in the eighth against Bryan Garcia. Reyes walked, Tyler Naquin reached on a throwing error by the pitcher, and Bradley Zimmer walked to load the bases. Leon fouled out, Mercado struck out, and Hernandez lined to center.
Nick Wittgren retired the Tigers in order in the eighth and Rony Garcia returned the favor in the ninth, bringing Brad Hand to the mound in search of save number five. He got the job done, but not without Tigers all over the place. After a first pitch strike to Castro, he missed on the next four to put the first runner on. Miguel Cabrera lined to left. Schoop was awarded first on catcher’s interference to once again bring the tying run to the plate. Candelario flied to left for the second out, but pinch-hitter JaCoby Jones yanked a 2-2 fastball in to left to make it a 3-1 game. With runners at second and third, Maybin stepped in once again with a chance for a big game-changing hit, but he grounded the first pitch back to Hand for the final out.
The Tigers (9-9) have now lost 19 straight games to the Indians, dating back to April of 2019. It is the second-longest losing streak in Major League history by one team against another.
Bieber moved back atop the Major League leaderboard by pushing his strikeout total to 54 with another solid performance on the mound. That total is tied for the third-most all-time in a pitcher’s first five starts (Nolan Ryan, 59 in 1978; Randy Johnson, 55 in 1999) and came with some impressive swing-and-miss stuff. The Tigers missed on 23 of their 48 swings on the night, an incredible rate of 48%.
“I started locating my pitches better after the first couple innings,” Bieber said after his outing. “Sandy and I got into a nice rhythm. I started to vary my curve ball and throw some sliders off that, and I could locate fastballs just to keep guys off the outside of the plate.”
Bieber moved to 4-0 on the year through five starts and his ERA plummeted to 1.30. He gave up three hits and one walk to go with his eleven strikeouts, his third double-digit strikeout performance of the campaign.
Turnbull had been the best of the Tigers’ starters to open the year, but the Indians got to him three times and chased him off of the mound before he could complete five innings. He was charged with three runs on six hits with four walks and three strikeouts and was dealt his first defeat of 2020 while dropping to 0-6 in his career against the Indians. Four Tigers relievers shut the Indians down the rest of the way, working four and one-third hitless innings, walking four more batters while striking out three.
Neither team did much with runners in scoring position. The Indians went 3-for-15 while stranding ten men on base. F. Reyes saw his seven-game hitting streak come to an end with an 0-for-3 day at the plate, but he did draw a walk. The Tigers were 1-for-7 while leaving six behind.
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire shared some disappointing news for the club earlier in the day, when he announced that free agent addition C.J. Cron would miss the rest of the season after electing to have surgery on his sprained left knee. He suffered the injury in the team’s 5-1 win on Monday over the Chicago White Sox. The team also placed Friday night’s starter Ivan Nova on the 10-day injured list with triceps tendinitis and recalled pitcher Anthony Castro from the team’s alternate training site in Toledo.
The series finale between the two clubs is scheduled for a 1:10 PM ET start from downtown Detroit on Sunday. The Tigers will call upon right-hander Michael Fulmer (0-0, 6.35 ERA) in what could amount to a bullpen game of sorts, as he has been limited on the mound in his return from Tommy John surgery. The Indians will turn to Adam Plutko (1-1, 2.45 ERA), who will make a second straight start for the Tribe while replacing the optioned protocol pitchers in the rotation.
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