Clevinger worked hard early, striking out every batter in Detroit’s lineup at least once by the fourth inning and tying a career high with 12 punchouts in the Tribe’s 7-2 victory over the Tigers at Progressive Field.
Clevinger moved to 6-2 lifetime with a 2.10 ERA against the Tigers. It’s the second-best active ERA among starters against Detroit behind Boston’s David Price (2.08). He equaled his career-best 12 strikeouts from April 1 against the White Sox.
“Really good stuff,” Indians manager Terry Francona said of Clevinger’s outing. “A lot of deep counts, but that’s going to come with as many strikeouts as he had. But I thought his stuff was tremendous, and I thought his breaking ball was better tonight. He gets out even further … Carl and I contemplated letting him go back out. But I think he’s getting to the point now where you’re starting to see the game dictate when he comes out.”
The Indians (54-40) won for the 10th straight time against the Tigers dating back to April 11. It’s the longest winning streak for Cleveland against Detroit since taking 11 straight from Sept. 1, 2017 to April 12, 2018. Cleveland also pulled within four games of first-place Minnesota in the A.L. Central for the first time since May 14. The Twins lost earlier in the day to the Mets, 14-4.
Cleveland remained tied with Oakland for the No. 2 wild-card spot in the AL and are a half-game behind Tampa Bay for the No. 1 position.
Nicholas Castellanos smashed a solo home run off Nick Wittgren with two out in the eighth that pulled Detroit within 3-2, but the Indians responded with four runs in the bottom of the inning, including Francisco Lindor’s 15th home run, an RBI single from Jason Kipnis and a two-run double by pinch hitter Greg Allen.
Wittgren worked the final 1 2/3 innings, striking out three Tigers for his second save.
Clevinger (3-2, 3.57) struck out seven of the first 13 batters he faced, allowing one hit in each of the first three innings, but stranding four baserunners. He worked into deep counts early with runners on base, averaging nearly 20 pitches through the first three frames.
Cleveland scored a pair of runs in the third against Tigers starter Spencer Turnbull (3-9, 3.65), loading the bases on back-to-back singles by Mike Freeman and Tyler Naquin and a walk to Lindor. Oscar Mercado then scorched a two-run single to center that got under the glove of Tigers shortstop Harold Castro. Mercado is hitting .394 in nine career games against Detroit with three doubles, three homers and 12 RBI.
The Indians were unable to add to their lead when Lindor was thrown out at the plate on a delayed steal as Mercado swiped second. Turnbull then settled in and worked around a pair of hits over the next three innings.
Detroit cut Cleveland’s two-run advantage in half in the sixth on an RBI hit to right by Jeimer Candelario, But Jose Ramirez doubled and stole third base in the eighth, scoring on Freeman’s RBI bunt single that gave the Indians a late two-run cushion.
“His awareness and ability to play the game and be a good teammate just jump out,” Francona said of Freeman. “That bunt was a huge play. He just plays the game the right way.”
It was Ramirez’s season-high fourth straight game with a double and Freeman’s second consecutive start with at least two hits. Ramirez has eight multi-hit games in his last 18 starts and is batting .353 with eight doubles in that stretch.
“He’s keeping more balls fair,” Francona said. “I also think with some success, you’re starting to see confidence again. No matter who you are, when you struggle you start to feel it. But we’re starting to see Jose smile again.”
The series concludes Thursday as Indians right-hander Trevor Bauer (8-7, 3.65) takes on Tigers lefty Matthew Boyd (6-7, 3.95). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m. at Progressive Field. SportsTime Ohio will broadcast the game, which can also be heard on WLKR 95.3 FM.
Bauer will make his 20th appearance and 19th start against Detroit. He is 9-6 against the Tigers with a 5.40 lifetime ERA. He pitched his only career shutout at Comerica Park on June 16, limiting the Tigers to four hits and no walks with eight strikeouts.
Boyd currently ranks third in the AL with 12 strikeouts per nine innings and fifth with 152 strikeouts. He has faced the Indians 10 times and is 2-3 with a 3.40 ERA and 47 punchouts. In six career starts in Cleveland, Boyd is 1-2.