Indians continue surge behind Tomlin's 4-hitter
DETROIT -- Corey Kluber's scratch from his scheduled start did nothing to slow down the resurgent Indians, who used a four-hitter from Josh Tomlin and two big hits from Jerry Sands to roll past the Tigers for an 8-1 win Friday night at Comerica Park.
"Oh, man. He was so good," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "He changed speeds, pounded the strike zone with all his pitches, had a good curveball. He used his fastball really effectively. That was fun to watch."
Kluber, who tweaked his right hamstring earlier this week during a mound session in Toronto, is expected to miss a start or two. The move did not catch the Tigers by surprise, but Tomlin -- whom the Tigers roughed up twice in as many starts last year -- did. He retired 15 out of 16 batters between base hits, surrendering his lone run on a Miguel Cabrera single in the sixth.
Tigers starter Kyle Lobstein tried to keep pace, but fell behind for good when Sands homered to left-center in the third inning. Sands' triple his next time up set off a four-run fifth inning that put the game out of reach.
"Not very good," Lobstein said. "I fell behind too many hitters and gave them too many pitches to hit behind in the count."
With the win and Texas' 5-2 loss to the Angels, the Indians moved within five games of the American League's second Wild Card.
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Sands storm: Through his first two at-bats, Sands checked off the hardest elements of a cycle. The outfielder launched a two-run homer to give Cleveland a 2-0 lead in the third inning and then led off the fifth with a triple. Sands finished 2-for-4. Travis Hafner (Aug. 14, 2003 against Minnesota) remains the last Indians batter to accomplish the rare feat.
"You get the home run and a triple in the first two at-bats," Sands said. "And the triple is harder for me than the home run most of the time, so you're always thinking about [a cycle]. I just tried to take my last two at-bats as normal ones. I haven't been swinging the bat great lately. So, I'd rather get something out of them than to try and hit a double or a single right there. I want to try and get back into a groove."
Locked when loaded: The Indians rank last in the Majors with a .177 average (17-for-96) with the bases loaded this season, but amazingly rank first in baseball in runs scored (31) with the bags full via walks, sacrifice flies and hit batsmen. That trend continued in the fifth, when Yan Gomes was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and Abraham Almonte later added a bases-loaded walk, accounting for two of the Tribe's four runs in the inning.
"We'll take anything," Francona said. "But, I thought our guys did a good job. Gomer got hit in the wrist. Almonte laid off some tough pitches. We've done a better job. I think when you're starting to get walks, one, it means you're commanding the strike zone -- you're not going out of the zone. That'll lead to getting hits, if you do that."
September is the Month of Machado: With Jose Iglesias sidelined for at least the next two weeks with a non-displaced fracture in his right middle finger, Dixon Machado began his late-season look at shortstop with a splash. His diving catch up the middle robbed Jason Kipnis of a hit in the top of the sixth inning. Of course, he had to lead off the bottom half of the inning, doubling down the left-field line to set up Detroit's lone run on a Cabrera single.
"Machy looked good," manager Brad Ausmus said. "He had a real solid year in Toledo. We always had known he's a solid defender. He started hitting the last couple years. Nice double tonight, for sure, and he'll probably get quite a bit more playing time now with Iglesias being out with a broken finger." More >
Another milestone for Cabrera: Cabrera's single was his 1,471st as a Tiger, tying him with Dick McAuliffe for 14th in franchise history. Cabrera went 1-for-4, dropping his average to .360, but he leads Michael Brantley by 38 points for the AL lead and Bryce Harper by 29 points for best in the Majors.
"We had a good game plan going forward and we executed when we needed to. The guys played great defense behind me. There were some pretty hard hit balls in the outfield that those guys ran down and did a great job on. It was a complete team effort. The guys put runs on the board and my job is to go out there and pump strikes, and try to get us back to the dugout so they can swing it some more." --Tomlin, on throwing a four-hitter.
"I think that hits the nail right on the head," --Ausmus, when asked to describe the Tigers' current skid and the lack of pitching behind it.
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The Tigers' run differential fell to minus-98 this season, the worst in the American League. Nearly half of that difference has come in the last seven games, during which they've been outscored by 48 runs.
Indians: The Tribe will send hard-throwing righty Danny Salazar (12-7, 3.27 ERA) to the mound for Saturday's 7:08 p.m. ET divisional clash with the Tigers. Over his past seven outings, Salazar has posted a 2.12 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 46 2/3 innings. On Monday in Toronto, he held the Blue Jays to one run over seven innings, ending with 10 strikeouts and one walk.
Tigers: Alfredo Simon, who gave up four Blue Jays home runs in his last start Sunday at Toronto, will try to rebound against an Indians lineup he has beaten three times in as many meetings this season, though all before mid-June.
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