Jordan Luplow played the hero last month with his bat, but on Monday night, it was his glove that earned the Cleveland Indians a big win. After entering just an inning earlier as a defensive replacement, Luplow’s diving catch with the bases loaded and two outs in the bottom of the ninth saved Emmanuel Clase in a huge jam to give the Indians a 6-5 win over the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
Cleveland overcame an early deficit, tying the game in the third and again in the sixth inning before taking a 6-3 lead in a three-run seventh. The Tigers used a two-run blast in the bottom of the inning to cut into the deficit, but stranded a pair in the eighth. Down to their final chances against the hard-throwing right-hander Clase, Detroit set the tables for a walk-off win. Clase struck out Willi Castro swinging in his first at bat since his homer in the seventh. Robbie Grossman worked a walk and moved to second one pitch later on a single to left by Jonathan Schoop. Jeimer Candelario moved the tying and winning runs into scoring position on a groundout to first. Clase intentionally walked Akil Baddoo to set up force plays around the diamond with one out remaining. Former Indians prospect Eric Haase stepped in as the Tigers’ last hope and lined a 101 MPH 2-1 cutter towards right. Luplow raced in and made the game-saving and game-winning diving catch to steal away victory at the jaws of defeat.
Clase allowed a single and two walks in the ninth, but Luplow’s defensive gem earned him his eighth save of the year. Jean Carlos Mejia, who pitched a perfect sixth inning and was the pitcher of record when the Tribe moved on top in the seventh, earned his first Major League win in relief.
Spencer Turnbull drew the starting nod for the Tigers in his first start since throwing a no-hitter against Seattle his last time out. Any chances of a repeated historic effort were squashed early as Eddie Rosario singled to start the second, but Turnbull used double play balls in each of the first two frames to face the minimum.
Rookie left-hander Sam Hentges opposed for Cleveland. He walked each of the first two batters that he faced in the first before getting out of the mess, striking out Miguel Cabrera and Haase to end the threat. The Tigers struck through against him in the second, as Niko Goodrum singled and moved to second on a wild pitch to open the inning before Victor Reyes walked on five pitches. Castro doubled home the game’s first run with a shot to right and Grossman made it a 2-0 game with a sacrifice fly to center to score the free runner Reyes. With another runner standing at third, Hentges punched out his fourth of the game, getting Schoop swinging.
The Indians responded with a pair of runs in the top of the third to tie the game. Owen Miller notched his first big league hit with an infield single up the middle. He moved to second on a single by Jake Bauers and Miller came in to score on a base hit by Rene Rivera to make it a 2-1 game. Cesar Hernandez grounded a 1-0 pitch to second, where the Tigers got the force of Rivera but nothing more. Bauers scored on the play to tie the game. Hernandez moved into scoring position on a walk by Amed Rosario, but the pair moved no further as Jose Ramirez and E. Rosario each flied out.
The Tigers responded with another run in the home half. Candelario opened the frame with a double to right. Hentges struck out Cabrera and got Haase on a grounder to third, but Goodrum kept the inning alive with a single. Nomar Mazara stepped to the plate with runners on the corners and delivered with a single to right, scoring Candelario to put Detroit back in front, 3-2.
Both pitchers threw perfect innings in the fourth, while Turnbull gave up a leadoff single to Bauers in the fifth before getting his third double play of the night to derail any scoring threat. Hentges finished his five-and-fly with three ground ball outs in the infield.
Cleveland tied the game again in the top of the sixth. A. Rosario singled and swiped second. J. Ramirez struck out swinging, but E. Rosario got the runner over to third with a ground ball to second. Harold Ramirez knocked home the run with an infield single to make it a 3-3 game. He stole second, but Josh Naylor popped out to third to end the inning.
Mejia retired the side in order in the sixth before the Tribe jumped on top for good against reliever Bryan Garcia. Miller reached on a fielding error and moved to second on Bauers’ third single of the day. Rivera sacrificed the pair into scoring position and Hernandez walked to load the bases. A. Rosario flied to center for the second out, but a wild pitch allowed Miller to touch home with the go-ahead run. J. Ramirez walked to reload the bases and E. Rosario came through with a big knock, driving in a pair on a single to left against Daniel Norris to give Cleveland a 6-3 lead.
Detroit refused to go away, scratching out two runs quickly off of Nick Wittgren. Reyes fouled off four straight pitches before singling to left. Castro worked the count full before driving the payoff pitch over the right field wall to cut the score to 6-5. Wittgren got the next three to line out.
Jose Jimenez set down the Tribe 1-2-3 in the eighth before the Tigers threatened again. Cabrera greeted Bryan Shaw with a single to center. Shaw got the next two, striking out Haase and getting Goodrum to foul out to left. Pinch-runner Baddoo stole second before a walk by Mazara to put two key runners on base, but Reyes could not come through for the Tigers, striking out swinging.
Cleveland had a chance to tack on an important insurance run in the ninth, but was unable to against Kyle Funkhouser. Bauers reached base for the fourth straight plate appearance with a leadoff walk. Rivera sacrificed him to second and Hernandez moved him to third on a grounder to second, but A. Rosario grounded to third to leave Bauers 90 feet from home.
The victory moved the Indians to 25-20 on the year, while the Tigers fell to 18-29.
Hentges gutted out a career-high five innings and 88 pitches in a no-decision for Cleveland (his previous career-highs in both stats came on May 12 against the Chicago Cubs, when he made 84 pitches over four and two-thirds innings). He allowed three runs on five hits, walking three early while striking out a career-best seven. Turnbull gave Detroit a quality outing but he did not factor in the decision. He worked six innings, charged with three runs on seven hits with a walk, a hit batter, and three strikeouts.
Bauers reached safely all four trips with a perfect 3-for-3 day at the dish. He scored a pair of runs. E. Rosario plated a pair and had two hits out of the cleanup spot. Miller scored his first two big league runs and recorded an infield hit for his first MLB hit.
Castro and Goodrum each had two hits for Detroit, with the former plating three of the team’s five runs on the day with two different RBI-hits. Prior to the game, the club placed catcher Wilson Ramos on the ten-day injured list and optioned outfielder JaCoby Jones to Triple-A Toledo. Pitcher Derek Holland was activated from the IL and Reyes was recalled from the Mud Hens.
Game two of four from downtown Detroit is scheduled for a 7:10 PM ET start on Tuesday. Detroit will turn to left-hander Tarik Skubal (1-6, 5.45 ERA), while Cleveland will counter with Aaron Civale (6-1, 3.30).
Photo: AP Photo/Paul Sancya