The Indians (88-63) scored at least one run in each of the first four innings and Adam Plutko pitched six good innings Tuesday night in a 7-2 win over Detroit at Progressive Field. After the Twins all but slammed the door on manager Terry Francona’s team over the weekend on winning the AL Central, Tuesday’s win was its 15th straight over the Tigers this season.
It is the longest winning streak by the Indians over one opponent in a season since they beat Orioles 17 straight from May 21-Sept. 6, 1954. They are 16-1 against the Tigers this year and 36-7 since Sept. 1, 2017.
The 16 wins are the most by the Indians against one team since they beat the White Sox 17 times in 2013.
“I didn’t know we’d beaten them 15 straight times, so I never even thought about it," Plutko said. "They’re a major league baseball team who can beat anybody on any given night. Recently, I saw them hammer the Twins. Any major league team can beat any other major league team on a given night, that’s the beauty of baseball
“The bottom line is we need to play our best brand of baseball no matter who are opponent is. No matter if it’s a winning team or a losing team. . .If we play like we did tonight, I think we’re going to have a really good chance.”
The Indians trail the Twins (93-58) by five games in the AL Central with just 11 games left. In the Wild Card Game race, the Tribe trail the Rays (89-63) by a half-game for the road slot. Oakland (91-61), meanwhile, owns the home position in the wild card — 2.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
The Tigers started rookie Zac Reininger in an opener’s role because scheduled starter Matt Boyd had to leave the team to deal with a family matter. It was Reininger’s first big-league start after 22 relief appearances.
Oscar Mercado started the Tribe’s offense with a homer in the first. It was his 12th of the season and second in the last four games. Roberto Perez made it 2-0 with a double in the second following a single by Mike Freeman. The Indians added three more runs in the third as Reininger and Nick Ramirez struggled.
Before the game the Indians announced that second baseman Jason Kipnis was lost for the season because of a broken hamate bone in his right hand. They also announced that DH Franmil Reyes was scratched from the lineup to tend to a family matter.
“It’s hard,” said Mercado, when asked about Kipnis. “He’s been swinging the bat really well in the second half. You lose a guy like that, one of the leaders in the clubhouse, it’s never easy. But we’ve got to keep battling. We have a chance to do something special.”
Jake Bauers replaced Reyes at DH, but he lasted just one at-bat. Ramirez, a lefty, relieved Reininger in the third after Mercado’s leadoff double and Carlos Santana’s walk. Ramirez struck out Yasiel Puig, but Jordan Luplow pinch-hit for Bauers and hit a two-run triple off the left field wall. Twenty-eight of Luplow’s 36 RBI have come against lefties this year.
Luplow came home with two out on Perez’s single to left for a 5-1 lead.
The Indians recalled Andrew Velazquez from Class AAA Columbus to replace Kipnis. The switch-hitter started at second base and made two nice plays. Offensively, he struck out four straight times.
Velazquez raced into foul territory down the right-field line to catch Dawel Lugo’s pop up just before it reached the seats to end the second. He banged into the grandstand, but stayed in the game. In the seventh, he started an inning-ending double play on a hard grounder by Lugo.
“I thought I ran into that guy (Puig) when I hit the rail,” Valezquez said with a smile. “I may have been better off running into the rail.”
Plutko (7-4, 4.34) allowed two runs on four hits for the win. He’s 3-0 with a 3.91 ERA in four starts against Detroit this year. He’s 4-0 in his career against the Tigers.
Detroit’s first run came in the third on an RBI single by Victor Reyes. Catcher Grayson Griener scored after hitting a leadoff double. Lugo homered in the fifth to make it 6-2. Plutko struck out six, walked one and threw 71 percent of his pitches (62-of-87) for strikes.
He was consistently ahead in the count.
“I think that’s always a solid game plan, get ahead of guys, try and put them away,” Plutko said. “I just found that — we talk about rhythm early — I kind of had that good rhythm, that good feeling, early on and just tried to ride it as long as I could.”
Reininger (0-3, 9.00) allowed four runs on five hits in two innings. He struck out two and walked one.
The Indians added their final run in the eighth as Santana doubled and scored on single by Puig. The Tribe’s right fielder went 3-for-5 with and RBI.
Rookie right-hander Aaron Civale (3-3, 1.93) will take the mound for the Tribe on Wednesday. He’ll face the Tigers and rookie right-hander Spencer Turnbull (3-15, 4.77). First pitch is scheduled for 7:10 p.m with SportsTime Ohio and WLKR 95.3 FM carrying the game.
This will be Civale’s third start against the Tigers this season. He’s 2-0 with a 1.38 ERA against them. This will be Turnbull’s sixth start against the Tribe this year. He’s 0-5 with a 6.48 ERA.