Cleveland’s 20-game winning streak over Detroit and six-game winning streak in general both came to a sudden halt on Friday night as the Tigers pummeled Adam Plutko for seven runs in a disastrous fourth inning as the Indians blew a five-run lead on the way to a 10-5 loss.
In a sudden and dramatic blink of an eye, the Indians’ substantial five-run lead evaporated on Friday as the Tigers erupted in a cathartic seven-run fourth inning to end their woes against Cleveland and turn the scales in their favor, capped by the first Major League home run, a grand slam, by rookie Isaac Paredes.
It was a tale of two games at Progressive Field in the series opener for the Tribe. For three innings, everyone was coming up Cleveland. After a scoreless first inning for both sides, the Indians got some help from starter Michael Fulmer on the way to jumping out to a significant early advantage in the second. Carlos Santana was hit by pitch and Franmil Reyes walked. Tyler Naquin earned a hustle double to drive in the first run of the night and a groundout by Domingo Santana plated Reyes from third with the second Indians’ run. After Roberto Perez struck out for the second out, Delino DeShields grounded to Fulmer’s left, but he was unable to convert the throw successfully to first after going to the turf and firing wide of the bag, giving the Indians a third run in the inning. Cesar Hernandez grounded to second to prevent further damage, but Cleveland had a big 3-0 lead.
The Indians’ spot starter Plutko retired the side 1-2-3 to start the game and worked around a leadoff single by Jonathan Schoop in the second, his first of four hits on the day. After the Indians paced Plutko with a three-run edge, he retired the side in order again in the third before the Cleveland lineup got back to work against Fulmer.
With one down in the inning, Francisco Lindor flied to center. C. Santana flied to center for the second out, but Reyes powered a 2-0 fastball over the right-center wall to the right of the bullpens for a two-run shot, extending the Cleveland lead to 5-0.
At this point, the game should have been in hand, but interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. did not have nearly enough time to prepare for the onslaught that was waiting on the horizon. Plutko got Victor Reyes on a comebacker for the first out of the top of the fourth, but he walked Miguel Cabrera before a two-run shot by Schoop. His fifth of the year made it a 5-2 game. Jeimer Candelario was hit by a pitch before the next four reached, as JaCoby Jones singled and Jorge Bonifacio walked to load the bases. Austin Romine singled to right, extending his hitting streak to seven straight while making it a 5-3 game. The rookie Paredes waited for a 1-2 pitch to his liking, driving a fastball dead red into the bleachers for a grand slam. His first career homer gave the Tigers a 7-5 lead. A stunned hush fell over the cardboard cutout fan base in Cleveland.
Alomar retrieved his starter several runs too late, putting Phil Maton on the mound in position to stop the bleeding. He gave up a single to V. Reyes, the tenth man to bat, but got the other two outs needed to leave it a 7-5 game.
Rony Garcia worked out of a jam in the fourth as the Indians tried to respond. Perez walked with one out and Hernandez doubled to right with two outs, but Jose Ramirez flied to center to leave two big runners on base. Maton worked the bottom half in his second inning of work, giving up a one-out single to Candelario in an otherwise scoreless inning.
Garcia opened the fifth and retired Lindor before Jose Cisnero entered and got the next two batters. He came back out after Cleveland’s Dominic Leone struck out the side in the top of the fifth and struck out the first two himself in the home half before Perez ended his hitting slump with a single to right. DeShields grounded to third to leave another runner through six.
The Tigers added on with several runs in the seventh as Leone did not have the results that he had in his first inning of work. V. Reyes homered to lead off the inning, making it an 8-5 game. A single by Cabrera and a double from Schoop put two on for Candelario, who plated a pair with a single to left-center to make it a 10-5 lead. Cam Hill took over for Leone and retired the next three in order.
Gregory Soto walked a batter to start the seventh before getting the next three in order. Bryan Garcia battled through the eighth, getting the first two batters before an infield single by D. Santana and a walk by Perez, but DeShields grounded to short to strand a pair. After Adam Cimber stranded a pair in the top of the ninth, the Indians put a couple on against Buck Farmer, but did no further damage as Lindor and C. Santana each singled with two down in the inning before F. Reyes struck out swinging.
The Tigers improved to 10-14 on the season and ended a losing skid against the Indians (16-10) dating back to the second week of April of a season ago. The win also ended their season-worst nine-game skid over the last week and a half. The Indians saw their six-game winning streak end after back-to-back sweeps of the Tigers and Pittsburgh Pirates. Coupled with a loss by first-place Minnesota, the Indians remain a half-game out in the American League Central at 16-10.
Plutko failed to provide the Tribe with much in his third straight start and second rough one. He lasted just three and one-third innings, charged with seven runs on five hits with a pair of walks and just one strikeout. Two home runs provided the bulk of the damage, as the two blasts plated six of the seven runs that he allowed. He fell to 1-2 on the season and saw his ERA jump to 6.88 in the short slate. The bullpen allowed three runs and eight hits behind him in five and two-thirds innings, with all three runs and four of the hits charged to Leone in his second inning of work.
“They strung some hits together and I couldn’t stop it,” said Plutko after the game. “I didn’t do my part. I was pretty poor all around.”
It was the first career loss against Detroit for Plutko, who was 4-0 in nine outings against the Tigers previously.
Fulmer took another no-decision and got off of the hook after the Indians buried him early in the night. He worked three innings and fired a season-high 63 pitches, allowing five runs on five hits with four strikeouts and a walk. The bullpen was stellar in relief, working six scoreless innings while allowing five hits and three walks with six strikeouts to protect the sudden Detroit lead after the top of the fourth.
The Indians stranded nine in another tough day at the plate. Every starter got at least one hit except Ramirez, who struck out three times on the night to see his season average drop to .230. Hernandez and Lindor each had two hits. F. Reyes hit his sixth homer of the year to give him 18 RBI.
Schoop was out of control for the Tigers out of the four-hole on Friday. He went 4-for-5 with two singles, a double, his sixth homer, and two RBI. V. Reyes, Candelario, and Jones each had two-hit games, while Cabrera scored a pair of runs. Paredes, who had three strikeouts in the game, will not remember that part of his night, as his first career home run proved to be a backbreaking grand slam in the disastrous fourth for Plutko.
The Indians played yet another game without skipper Terry Francona, who was not back in the dugout after undergoing a medical procedure during the week. His status for the rest of the weekend series is still up in the air.
The Tigers played without outfielder Cameron Maybin, who missed the series opener after straining his hamstring on Thursday while batting against the Chicago White Sox.
Game two of three from downtown Cleveland is scheduled for another 7:10 PM ET first pitch on Saturday. The Tigers will send out left-hander Matthew Boyd (0-3, 9.64 ERA), looking for the southpaw to give a longer outing and some better results on the mound. The Indians will call up right-hander Triston McKenzie for his Major League debut, with an unannounced corresponding roster move needed to create room on the 28-man roster for the rookie hurler.
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