The bats of the Cleveland lineup woke up just in time on Sunday as the Indians scored eight unanswered runs over the final four innings to defeat the Detroit Tigers by a 9-3 count.
Aaron Civale drew the starting nod in the series finale against second-year left-hander Tarik Skubal with the task of sending the Tribe back to Ohio in the win column for the first time in 2021. He did his part, scattering just two hits over seven quality innings of work, but he needed some help from his friends to get the job done.
The Tribe took the first lead of the afternoon in their first trips to the plate with a quick two-out rally. Jose Ramirez jumped on a first-pitch fastball with two out in the inning and singled to left. With Eddie Rosario at the plate, he broke for second as Skubal moved to pick him off, but he swiped it and advanced to third on a throwing error by the young Tigers starter. Later in Rosario’s at bat, he sent a 3-2 slider into right field to give the Indians their first lead of the campaign.
That advantage lasted just four batters into the home half of the second as the Tigers used a big fly to tip the scales in their favor. Civale got the first two batters on outs in the air before issuing a five-pitch walk to Willi Castro. Nomar Mazara yanked a 1-1 slider in over the right field wall for a two-run shot, giving Detroit a 2-1 edge.
Skubal worked around a two-out double in the second by Yu Chang and a leadoff walk by Jordan Luplow in the third to keep the score the same, but he got some additional support in the bottom of the third from rookie Rule 5 pick Akil Baddoo. On his first pitch seen of his Major League career, Baddoo drove a fastball the opposite way and over the wall for a memorable home run, extending the Tigers’ lead to 3-1.
Civale settled down after walking the next batter, retiring eight in a row. Skubal locked in as well with similar results, but ran into trouble in the sixth as the Tribe bats started to perk up. Cesar Hernandez walked on four straight with one out in the inning and motored to third on a double by Ramirez. Manager AJ Hinch went to his bullpen for Bud Norris, whose first pitch to Rosario was grounded to second for the second out. Hernandez scored on the out to make it a 3-2 game. With the tying run 90 feet away, Franmil Reyes struck out swinging.
Civale walked his third batter of the day to start the sixth, but erased that man on a big double play to bring the Tribe bats back to the plate for more work. And work they did as they strung together four hits to take a big lead. Amed Rosario singled to right and Josh Naylor doubled over the right field wall to put a pair in scoring position for Chang. He laced a single to the gap in left-center to score both base runners to put the Indians back on top, 4-3. Austin Hedges flied to right for the first out before Luplow left the yard, sending both the ball and his bat into orbit on a no-doubter over the left field bullpen to put Cleveland up by a 6-3 tally.
Civale finished his day’s work in the seventh, retiring the side in order on a dozen pitches, leaving with three runs allowed on just two hits with three walks and six strikeouts on the afternoon.
The Indians’ bats got back into action in the eighth against reliever Buck Farmer. E. Rosario won a seven-pitch battle to open the inning, drawing a walk. Three pitches later, he got to trot around the bases as Reyes exited stage left with his first homer of the season, pushing the lead out to five at 8-3.
Cal Quantrill made quick work of the Tigers in the eighth, setting down the side in order with a pair of Ks to his credit before his battery mate and former teammate in San Diego, Hedges, joined in on the fun at the plate with a solo homer of his own to open the ninth against southpaw Tyler Alexander, giving the game its final score at 9-3. Emmanuel Clase closed out the game in a non-save situation for Cleveland, lighting up the radar gun with nine triple-digit cutters in the process.
The Indians improved to 1-2 on the season with their first victory, avoiding a sweep in the Motor City to the rival Tigers (2-1).
Cleveland starting pitching performed well again, but unlike the first two contests this year, the staff received some well-deserved run support. Civale, Quantrill, and Clase combined to allow three runs on two hits with three walks and nine strikeouts.
The bats represented much better for the Tribe on Sunday as all nine starters reached base safely via hit or walk and all nine scored once. Ramirez and Chang each had a single and double on their stat sheet. Luplow, Reyes, and Chang drove in a pair of runs, as did E. Rosario for the second day in a row. Skubal was charged with two runs over five and one-third innings of work. Norris took the loss and was charged with four runs in an inning and one-third. Farmer gave up two in his inning of work and Alexander allowed Hedges’ solo homer to start his inning on the rubber.
The Tigers mustered just two hits to go with their three walks, but both of those hits left the yard against Civale. Detroit was held without an at bat with runners in scoring position on the day.
The Tigers will stay home at Comerica Park, but will have some tough competition in the Minnesota Twins coming to town. The Indians will head back home to Cleveland, where they will start a five-game homestand on Monday against the Kansas City Royals.
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