CLEVELAND -- If the Indians are able to make a deep run through October, culminating in the franchise's first World Series title in seven decades, no Tribe fan will complain about the trying season that Andrew Miller endured.In the meantime, Miller's campaign continues to be disconcerting.During a 5-4 loss to
CLEVELAND -- If the Indians are able to make a deep run through October, culminating in the franchise's first World Series title in seven decades, no Tribe fan will complain about the trying season that Andrew Miller endured.
In the meantime, Miller's campaign continues to be disconcerting.
During a 5-4 loss to the Tigers on Friday night, the high of Josh Donaldson's first home run in a Cleveland uniform quickly subsided when Miller could not keep Detroit's lineup in check. The left-handed relief ace took over in the seventh and he surrendered a pair of run-scoring doubles to help the Tigers pick up their first win at Progressive Field since last year.
"Once he got into the inning, I thought his stuff was the same as before," manager Terry Francona said. "[He was] touching 94 [mph]. Good breaking ball. I thought he left a couple pitches up. Still, that's his third outing [since coming off the DL], and I know he doesn't like giving up runs.
"I don't like when anybody gives up runs, but he's going in the right direction."
With the defeat, the American League Central-leading Indians were forced to put their division-clinching party on hold for at least one more day. The Royals' 8-4 walk-off win over the Twins, however, trimmed the Tribe's magic number to one, meaning a win over Detroit on Saturday will seal a third consecutive Central title.
Miller turned in a pair of encouraging outings over the weekend against the Rays, striking out four in two shutout innings after being activated from the disabled list. His latest absence was due to an impingement in his left shoulder. Miller also had DL stints earlier this season for a right knee issue and a left hamstring strain.
With the score tied at 2, Miller came on in the seventh with one out and a runner on second. Jeimer Candelario welcomed Miller by pulling a fastball over the heart of the plate into left for an RBI double. Three batters later, Victor Martinez attacked an outside slider, sending it to deep center for another two-base hit to give Detroit a 4-2 advantage.
Miller finished with 24 pitches, his most in an outing since Opening Day on March 31 in Seattle. That in itself was a stepping stone as he works towards being ready to handle a substantial workload in October.
"Hopefully, [we'll] get him back Sunday and just keep building," Francona said.
Candelario also led off the game with a home run against Indians starter Josh Tomlin, who allowed two runs in four innings. Detroit's decisive run came in the eighth, when JaCoby Jones singled off Neil Ramirez, stole second base and then scored from there when the pitch got away from catcher Yan Gomes on a strikeout.
Complicating matters for Cleveland was a solid outing from lefty Matthew Boyd, who limited the Tribe to a 1-for-17 showing before Edwin Encarnacion and Donaldson launched consecutive home runs in the sixth. Boyd walked away with a no-decision, but he struck out seven and helped set the tone for the Tribe's 13th loss in 22 games.
The Indians made things interesting in the ninth, when Donaldson hit a leadoff single to center against Shane Greene. Yonder Alonso followed with a pinch-hit single to left -- putting runners on the corners -- and Melky Cabrera brought a run in with a sacrifice fly. After a single by Gomes, Jason Kipnis then cut Detroit's lead to one with a run-scoring groundout to first.
"We're all just trying to get on the same page," Tomlin said, "just trying to play our style of baseball as much as we can. Once it clicks and once we get on a roll, it should be pretty good. We're definitely not trying to time it out to where we say, 'Let's start clicking right now.' It doesn't really work that way.
"[The Tigers] still put on a big league uniform and they're still a big league team, and they're trying to win games, too."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Donaldson's drive: A moment Tribe fans had been waiting for arrived in the sixth, when Donaldson followed Encarnacion's one-out homer with a towering blast of his own. Donaldson crushed a 3-0 heater from Boyd deep to left with a launch angle of 42 degrees, his highest on a homer since Statcast™ was introduced in 2015. The majestic homer (Donaldson's first with Cleveland and first overall since May 3) pulled the game into a 2-2 deadlock. More >
"It's been a while since I've had this type of adrenaline going through my body," Donaldson said. "I've had to try to take a step back, breathe a little bit more, try to slow the game down. I've been pretty excited to be here and play the last couple games. To have a little bit of success tonight was nice."
Missed chance:Francisco Lindor led off the first inning with a single to left-center, but a misplay by Tigers left fielder Christin Stewart allowed Lindor to advance to third on the play. Boyd escaped the inning unscathed with a trio of strikeouts in a four-batter span, including setting down Encarnacion and Donaldson.
"He has good stuff," Francona said of Boyd. "He's got plenty of fastball and he's got a nice little breaking ball, a changeup to go with it. I thought he pitched really well. We were pretty quiet until all of a sudden a couple of the home runs gave us a little life."
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Similar to a year ago, Jose Ramirez has made a smooth transition back to second base, which is his natural position. He certainly looked comfortable at the position in the second, when Dawel Lugo sent a chopper up the middle. Ramirez ran in, made a backhanded grab of the bouncer in front of second and then fired the ball across his body and on the run. The throw got to first in time to nab Lugo for a highlight-reel out.
"You can put him out in center field today, you could put him at catcher," Tomlin said, "and he'd probably be good at it. He's just a baseball player in every sense of the word. It doesn't matter where he plays, he's going to play 100 percent and he's going to play the same way."
This marked the 13th time that Encarnacion and Donaldson -- formerly teammates with the Blue Jays -- homered in the same game. This was the first time the pair went back to back in the same lineup.
HE SAID IT
"His first game at [Tropicana Field], he took a swing and I kind of got chills. I'm glad he's on our side now, watching that swing as opposed to actually having to face that swing. It was good to see him go out there and get his first hit, and get his first home run. That was a beautiful swing." --Tomlin, on Donaldson
Indians right-hander Mike Clevinger (11-8, 3.16 ERA) is scheduled to start at 3:10 p.m. ET on Saturday against the Tigers at Progressive Field. Clevinger has a 2.54 ERA with 73 strikeouts against 10 walks in his past 10 starts (60 1/3 innings). Detroit will counter with righty Michael Fulmer (3-11, 4.56 ERA).
Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for MLB.com since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and Facebook.