DETROIT -- For a brief moment Sunday afternoon, the Tigers appeared poised to end the Indians’ winning streak against them. Four third-inning hits off Adam Plutko had erased a three-run deficit, then Jeimer Candelario had seemingly tripled home Miguel Cabrera to give Detroit its first lead since the third inning of Friday’s series opener.
Then Cabrera was sent back to third base and Candelario to second when first-base umpire Tim Timmons ruled Candelario’s drive into the right-field corner was a ground-rule double. The ball was ruled to be lodged under the padding that covers the outfield wall. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire earned his 85th career ejection in the ensuing argument with Timmons.
“We were told that’s in the umpires’ hands, and they make that call regardless of whether the fielder raises his hands or not,” said bench coach Lloyd McClendon, who took over once Gardenhire was ejected.
Gardenhire argued that a similar ball hit into the left-field corner by White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson against the Tigers on Wednesday was ruled a triple, even though the ball was lodged and left fielder Christin Stewart retrieved it without signaling.
“The player has no bearing on it,” Timmons confirmed to a pool reporter. “Basically because of replay, if the ball is lodged, the ball is lodged. Once I see that the ball is lodged, then [the play is] dead.”
Indians manager Terry Francona said the same.
“We were actually told this spring that because of replay, go get [the ball],” Francona told reporters.
Once Indians reliever Phil Maton retired Stewart to strand the two runners, the Tigers’ chance to take over was gone. And as Cleveland pulled away through the middle innings with three home runs, including a tape-measure drive from Franmil Reyes midway up the center-field vines for his second homer of the day and third of the series, the Tigers’ 8-5 loss -- their 20th consecutive defeat to the Indians since April 2019 -- became a catharsis for Detroit's frustrations throughout the series sweep.
“Obviously, 20 in a row stinks,” Sunday's starter Michael Fulmer said. “They’ve got our number right now, but it just takes one. We get into Cleveland next week, and we’ll put some time in and hopefully buckle down on the starting pitching.”
Cabrera tied the game again in the fifth inning with an RBI single, but he ran through third-base coach Ramon Santiago’s stop sign and was thrown out at home on Candelario’s single for the first out of the inning.
“It looked like Miguel was trying to shut it down, but he's such a big man, it's a difficult thing for him to do,” McClendon said. “That's one of those unfortunate plays, because we had something going there, but we had other opportunities as well.”
Cameron Maybin pinch-hit and grounded into an inning-ending double play, blurted out a frustration at first base and was ejected from the game. Home-plate umpire D.J. Reyburn said afterward that Maybin was ejected for arguing balls and strikes.
"From what I was told, there were some choice words exchanged several different times, and the home-plate umpire had enough," McClendon said.
Frustrations aside, the Tigers -- who fell under .500 for the first time this season at 9-10 -- have to regather quickly before Monday’s series opener against the White Sox. They’ll also have several issues to work out before next weekend's three-game series in Cleveland.
Goodrum leaves with right upper back tightness
Niko Goodrum paced Detroit’s third-inning comeback with an excellent at-bat, working a full count before lining an RBI single to left-center. However, he left after striking out to end the fourth, reporting tightness in his right upper back.
“Niko left as a precaution,” McClendon said. “We need to make sure he’s healthy.”
Goodrum had played every inning since the Tigers’ season resumed Aug. 7 in Pittsburgh, and he has started all but two games this season. He has been a cog for this team on both sides, spearheading Detroit’s improved infield defense as the everyday shortstop while providing quality at-bats from the leadoff spot. Willi Castro moved over from third base to replace Goodrum on Sunday and would likely fill in if Goodrum has to miss any time, but the Tigers would be hard-pressed to replace Goodrum’s all-around impact.
Fulmer continues rotation struggles
The last time Fulmer took the mound against Cleveland, he allowed back-to-back home runs and left without recording an out. That was in September 2018, when he was diagnosed with a torn meniscus in his right knee that began a 22-month absence that included Tommy John surgery. Sunday was his third start back, again in a piggyback role. While he continued his progression in velocity -- his fastball topped out just shy of 96 mph according to Statcast -- he allowed home runs to Reyes and Francisco Lindor.
Fulmer succeeded in getting Reyes to chase a high fastball, but the slugger sent it out to right for an opposite-field homer. Lindor turned on a slider that Fulmer got in but not down enough.
Fulmer left with two outs in the third when Gardenhire, trying to keep the game close, went to Tyler Alexander for a lefty-lefty matchup.
“Obviously we lost, and I didn’t do my job, and I’m completely frustrated with that, and it’s on me,” Fulmer said. “With that being said, I see the things I’m working on. It’s getting better and better. It’s just the results aren’t there yet.”
Tigers starters this series combined to allow 14 runs on 16 hits over 10 2/3 innings against an Indians offense that had struggled before coming to town. With starters yet to be announced for Tuesday and Wednesday in Chicago, Detroit’s rotation is in flux.
Bullpen finally hit
Tigers relievers have been the bright spot of the pitching staff this season, but even they weren’t immune to Cleveland’s offense onslaught. Alexander, who was stellar in relief before a rough start Tuesday, retired his first five batters before José Ramírez homered. John Schreiber, who entered with 8 1/3 scoreless innings this season, allowed a Sandy León home run and a César Hernández double as part of a three-run sixth inning that put the Indians in command. Hard-throwing lefty Gregory Soto wasn’t charged with a run, but he allowed an inherited runner to score for the first time this season when Lindor doubled in Hernández off of a 97-mph fastball.