Death, taxes, and the Cleveland Indians whipping up on the AL Central in 2018. There are some things in life that cannot be escaped.
The Cleveland Indians navigated their way through a couple of early unearned runs en route to an 8-3 victory over the fading Detroit Tigers.
Mock the division all you’d like, but the Indians don’t have any control over the weak competition in the Central. Their job is to take advantage of it, and they’ve been doing quite well.
Friday marked Cleveland’s 11th victory over Detroit, and here’s how it all unfolded.
Carrasco gets the job done
As has been the case for most of 2018, the Tribe received a solid outing from their starting pitcher. Carlos Carrasco went 6.1 innings, struck out eight and surrendered just one earned run on a solo shot off the bat of Victor Martinez.
The Indians’ reliable hurler ran into a bit of trouble in the third inning when a Yonder Alonso throwing error set the table for a pair of RBI doubles, but escaped from any further damage thanks to a heads-up play by the infield to track down a runner caught between third and home to end the frame.
Carrasco would give up the game-tying home run to Martinez in the sixth, but he put the Tribe in a position to win the game when he exited at 3-3 in the seventh.
Big flies set the tone
Following the unearned runs, the Indians needed a spark. It took them a full inning to recuperate, but Francisco Lindor delivered in the fifth with a two-run blast that tied the game. Alonso followed with a solo homer of his own in the sixth inning to give the Indians a 3-2 lead.
Seemingly determined to atone for his error, Alonso also drove in the go-ahead run on an RBI single to the opposite field after an impressively hard-fought at-bat against Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez in the eighth inning.
With the Indians up 4-3, Detroit brought in a lefty to face the switch-hitting Melky Cabrera. Terry Francona elected to pinch-hit with Brandon Guyer, and Guyer delivered the dagger. With two runners on, the lefty-killer torched a ball over the left field fence to give the Tribe a comfortable four-run lead.
Lindor would then add another solo blast in the top of the ninth.
Bullpen getting it together
The most important aspect of this game is that it featured a spotless effort from the beleaguered Indians bullpen. Oliver Perez was the first reliever to spell Carrasco, and he unfortunately gave up a one-out single in the bottom of the seventh. He was immediately followed by Cody Allen, who induced a much-needed double play to end the inning.
There was admittedly some breathing room after the top of the eighth inning yielded four Indians runs, but it was encouraging nonetheless to see the bullpen batten down the hatches. Allen surrendered a two-out walk in the bottom half of the frame, and was subsequently relieved by Adam Cimber.
Detroit’s John Hicks muscled a single into shallow right field on a swing that appeared more in self-defense than anything, but Cimber would record the final out without allowing either baserunner to cross home.
With a five-run lead, the Tribe turned to Dan Otero to finish the Tigers off for the night. Otero allowed an infield single to lead off the inning before recording three straight outs.
We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves–it’s only been a week–but doesn’t something just feel different heading into the late stages of a game ever since the trade with San Diego? Francona has more flexibility with Cimber and Brad Hand in the fold, as is evidenced by Allen’s appearance in the seventh instead of the non-save-situation ninth.
It may take a few weeks (maybe even a month) before we see the finished product that flexibility allows for. But it feels as though the bullpen is on its way back to the level that struck fear in the hearts of opposing teams.
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And remember, Andrew Miller is coming back soon too.