Five Homers Power Tribe Past Tigers to Complete Sweep; Indians 8, Tigers 5
Bob Toth | On 16, Aug 2020
The series finale from Comerica Park between the Indians and Tigers on Sunday was hardly a clinic in pitching, but the game did provide plenty of fireworks on and off the field as Cleveland used five homers to push past Detroit, 8-5.
Cleveland (13-9) used a well-timed power display to pick up starter Adam Plutko while the bullpen allowed just two runs over six and one-third innings of needed relief. It was more of the same from the Tigers (9-10), which are still looking for answers to solve the riddle that has become the Indians lineup and pitching staff. Their fifth straight loss extended their losing streak against the Indians to 20 consecutive games, dating back to last April.
The Indians took the early lead in what turned out to be a bullpen game for both clubs. The Tigers at least anticipated that, with Michael Fulmer on the mound on a pitch count. He allowed a two-out ground-rule double to Francisco Lindor in the first, but four men reached the next inning as the Indians took an early lead. Behind in the count 1-2 to lead off the inning, Franmil Reyes drove a letter-high fastball the opposite way just over the right field wall for a home run, giving Cleveland a 1-0 lead. Tyler Naquin singled before he was doubled up on a grounder to short by Domingo Santana. Sandy Leon walked and moved to second on a single to right by Delino DeShields, but Cesar Hernandez struck out looking to strand a pair.
Plutko retired six of the first seven batters of the game, giving up a one-out single in the first to Harold Castro, before the Indians added to their lead with another big fly. Fulmer walked Jose Ramirez on five pitches and fell behind Lindor 2-1 before the Tribe’s switch-hitting shortstop yanked another pitch to right. This one cleared the fence on the fly for a two-run shot, putting the Indians in front, 3-0. Fulmer lasted just two more batters before he was relieved by Tyler Alexander.
Plutko’s early success did not translate in a messy third innings that could have ended even worse. Grayson
Greiner doubled to left to start things off. After JaCoby Jones lined to third for the first out, Niko Goodrum saw seven pitches before sending the eighth into center for an RBI-single. H. Castro drove the next pitch deep to left-center for a double to put runners on second and third and Miguel Cabrera wasted no time either, sending a first pitch single into center to score both runners to knot the game at three. Jonathan Schoop popped out for the second out, but Jeimer Candelario sent a drive into the right field corner. Cabrera appeared to score on the play with the ball deadened at the wall, but first base umpire Tim Timmons ruled the play a ground-rule double, possibly believing that the ball had gotten stuck in the base of the wall. He pulled Cabrera back from the dugout out to third base, which led to an expletive-filled response from Timmons while ejecting Tigers skipper Ron Gardenhire, who was out arguing the decision. Tribe manager Terry Francona took that opportunity to get Phil Maton from the bullpen, and he got out of the jam by getting Christin Stewart to line to left.
Alexander retired the side in order in the top of the fourth and Maton plunked Jones with two down before striking out Goodrum in the bottom half. Facing Alexander in a third different inning, the Indians moved back out in front after a groundout from Hernandez as Ramirez sent a no-doubter deep into the vacant left field seats, with his fifth homer of the year putting the Indians back on top, 4-3. Alexander allowed two two-out singles to Carlos Santana and Reyes before working out of it.
The Tigers responded with a run of their own in the bottom half of the fifth as Dominic Leone was not fooling the Detroit hitters. H. Castro singled, moved up on a wild pitch, and scored Cabrera’s third run batted in on the day on his single to center. Schoop walked, bringing Francona out for Oliver Perez. Candelario singled his third pitch into center and curiously, Cabrera blew through the stop sign of third base coach Ramon Santiago. A good relay throw from center nabbed Cabrera on the left sleeve for the first out of the inning and pinch-hitter Cameron Maybin bounced into a 4-6-3 double play as the Tigers’ rally crumbled quickly. Maybin was ejected for comments made after the play, which followed his objection to the strike zone just prior to his ground ball.
The Indians took full advantage of the missed opportunity by the Tigers and broke the game open with another big inning in the top of the sixth. With John Schreiber on for the second time in the series, he gave up an unlikely blast to Leon with one down. His first homer in over a year put the Indians back in the lead at 5-4. The birthday boy DeShields, celebrating his 28th birthday, injected some offense as well with a good bunt out in front of the plate for an infield single. He moved to third on a double to right by Hernandez and motored in to score on a groundout to second by Ramirez. Gregory Soto, who had been one of the best relievers on Gardenhire’s staff, was summoned from the bullpen by bench coach Lloyd McClendon, but he lost his battle with Lindor as the Tribe’s superstar doubled to left with his third extra base hit of the game to score Hernandez, giving Cleveland a 7-4 lead. C. Santana grounded to third to leave him at second.
Cam Hill pitched an effective sixth inning before the Indians added another run via the long ball in the seventh. Carson Fulmer, the fifth Tigers pitcher of the afternoon, came on but his second pitch to Reyes caught every bit of the middle of the plate and Reyes sent it into orbit, launching another moonshot to straightaway center, 453 feet from the plate, to extend the lead to 8-4.
Hill got the first out of the home half of the seventh before walking H. Castro. He turned the ball over to James Karinchak, who had to do a little extra work after a throwing error by Hernandez, but he left two in scoring position by striking out Candelario looking on the big breaker.
Beau Burrows became just the second Tigers pitcher to not be charged a run and the first to not allow a run altogether with a perfect eighth inning. Karinchak added two more Ks to complete his inning and a third of work with a perfect bottom half of his own.
The Indians had a bit of a scare in the ninth against reliever Joe Jimenez. He got C. Santana to fly to left for the first out, but he missed up and in on a 1-1 fastball to Reyes, hitting him in the meaty part of the left hand. He exited the game, replaced by Oscar Mercado, who stole second but was stranded there as Naquin fouled out and Bradley Zimmer struck out.
For the second game in a row, the Indians bullpen had a tough time closing the door. Nick Wittgren, on for work with a four-run lead, allowed a double to Jones and an RBI-single to Victor Reyes to make it an 8-5 game. He struck out H. Castro for the second out, but lost a seven-pitch battle with Cabrera to put the veteran on for free while bringing the tying run to the plate in Schoop. With pitchers warming in the bullpen, Wittgren got Schoop to ground a high fastball to second, where Hernandez started the game-ending twin-killer to send the Tribe home with the victory.
Perez nabbed his first win of the season for the Indians, needing six pitches and a base running blunder to get his three outs in the bottom of the fifth before the Indians jumped out in front for good. He was the fourth of seven Indians pitchers on the day. Plutko started and lasted two and two-thirds innings, throwing 33 of 47 pitches for strikes but catching far too much of the plate far too often. He allowed three runs on six hits in a no-decision. Maton retired four of his five batters faced without much incident, while Leone failed to retire any of the three that he pitched to. Hill earned his second Major League hold with an inning and one-third of scoreless relief, walking one and striking out one. Karinchak lowered his ERA to 0.79 with an inning and two-thirds scoreless relief with three strikeouts to give him 22 on the year in just 11 1/3 innings.
M. Fulmer’s woes continued as he slowly works his way back from Tommy John surgery. The long ball was an issue once again, as he has allowed five this season in eight and one-third innings. He lasted just two and two-thirds, throwing 33 of 58 pitches for strikes while allowing three runs on five hits with a pair of walks and two strikeouts. Alexander and C. Fulmer each allowed solo homers, and Screiber took the loss after allowing three runs on three hits on just nine pitches in two-thirds of an inning.
Eight of the nine Indians starters recorded hits on the day, with a much needed breakout from Lindor. He led the offense with three RBI on the day, using a pair of doubles and his fourth homer of the season out of the three-hole. Ramirez drove in two runs and scored twice while hitting his fifth homer of the season, and Leon reached base three times with his first homer and a pair of walks. DeShields, who celebrated his 28th birthday Sunday, added two more hits and is hitting .333 since being activated from the injured list last week. Hernandez’s double put him on the base paths in a 20th game out of 21 appearances this season.
Reyes hit his fourth and fifth homers and added a single to make up for a hitless day on Saturday that brought an end to his modest seven-game hitting streak. He reached a fourth time on his scary hit by pitch, but the team is hopeful it looked and sounded worse than it was as x-rays taken of his hand came back negative, according to Francona after the game.
“It was painful at the beginning, but it went away, thank God,” said Reyes after the game before speaking on the effort of his teammates. “What I could see from the team, especially today, was the support we give each other. How the guys are fired up in the dugout.”
The Tigers did their damage with runners in scoring position, going 5-for-10 on the day while leaving eight men on base. H. Castro went 3-for-4 and scored two of those runs, helping set the table for Cabrera, who went 2-for-4 with three RBI to break out of a 1-for-19 slump. Candelario was 2-for-4, but the four hitters in the bottom of the lineup combined for a 2-for-15 showing with four strikeouts, including three from former Indians minor league infielder Willi Castro. Goodrum left after four innings, who was lifted for precautionary reasons with upper back tightness.
The Indians will have a chance to match the all-time record for consecutive wins against the same opponent when the Tigers come to Progressive Field for a three-game series next weekend. Cleveland’s 20-game streak is just three games short of the MLB record of 23, held by the Baltimore Orioles over the Kansas City Royals over the 1969 and 1970 seasons.
The Indians are going to break from the norm some prior to their next series, as they will fly to Cleveland Sunday night instead of to Pittsburgh, opting to spend the off day at home before busing over to Pennsylvania to start a three-game series with the 4-14 Pirates on Tuesday night.
Pittsburgh, which has not played since Friday night due to the COVID-19 concerns of its opponent this weekend, the Cincinnati Reds, will send left-hander Steven Brault (0-0, 5.14 ERA) to the mound in the series opener. He has made three starts and one relief appearance this season, but has worked more as an opener for the Pirates. Cleveland will counter with right-hander Carlos Carrasco (2-2, 3.22 ERA), who will look to bounce back from a rough outing against the Chicago Cubs during the week. Aaron Civale and Shane Bieber will round out the rotation over the rest of the series.
The next first pitch for the Tribe, coming from PNC Park in downtown Pittsburgh, is scheduled for 7:05 PM ET on Tuesday night.
Photo: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images