DETROIT -- The Tigers hadn't beaten the Indians in 11 tries since the night before last year's All-Star break. They hadn't beaten Carlos Carrasco since last April 16. They did both on Monday without the top four hitters from their regular lineup.Detroit didn't have Jose Cabrera, Leonys Martin, Nicholas Castellanos
DETROIT -- The Tigers hadn't beaten the Indians in 11 tries since the night before last year's All-Star break. They hadn't beaten Carlos Carrasco since last April 16. They did both on Monday without the top four hitters from their regular lineup.
Detroit didn't have Jose Cabrera, Leonys Martin, Nicholas Castellanos or Jeimer Candelario on Monday, but it had Niko Goodrum, whose two-homer, five-RBI game in Castellanos' place helped the injury-depleted Tigers pull off a 6-3 win over the Tribe at Comerica Park.
Yes, Niko Goodrum. When many Tigers fans last heard from him, he made the Opening Day roster off a Spring Training invite as a guy who could play just about anywhere Ron Gardenhire put him. He hadn't played much of anywhere lately since John Hicks took over at first base in Cabrera's absence, but with Castellanos out with a bruised left pinkie finger, he's getting his chance again.
That, Gardenhire said, is the essence of how teams bounce back from injuries.
"It gives other people opportunities," Gardenhire said. "When they get opportunities, they're out there grinding. There's a belief out in that clubhouse that we can do some things."
With three homers, five hits, six RBIs and four runs scored over the last two games, Goodrum is giving the Tigers a lift. One homer came off James Paxton in a similarly surprising win over Seattle on Sunday. Even that, however, had a hard time comparing to beating Carrasco.
Detroit's third win in four games closed its gap to two games behind Cleveland in the American League Central. It came on the same day the team placed Candelario on the 10-day DL. The Tigers put up an improvised batting order against Carrasco, who was 12-0 with a 1.49 ERA against AL Central foes since last June 11 -- the longest streak by a Major League pitcher within a division at the time.
Goodrum's recent success has come from battling pitchers. When he stepped to the plate in the fourth inning following Hicks' double, by contrast, he jumped a first-pitch fastball that Carrasco (5-2) left over the heart of the plate.
"Whoever's on the mound has to throw the ball over the plate," Goodrum said. "It doesn't matter who it is up there. If you put a pitch up there, I'm going to try to put a swing on it. After that, it's out of my control."
Goodrum hit it to one of the cruelest areas of the park, towards the cutout in right-center field. The 391-foot drive, as projected by Statcast™, just cleared the out-of-town scoreboard.
"He went through a pretty rough stretch," Gardenhire said, "so it was good to see him swinging it."
Goodrum's third home run of the season handed a 3-1 lead to Mike Fiers (4-2), who yielded a Jose Ramirez first-inning homer but just two singles the rest of the way. Fiers kept Cleveland hitters off balance by throwing just two first-pitch fastballs over his final 11 batters.
The Indians came within a hit of tying the game after Dixon Machado's error extended the eighth inning for Edwin Encarnacion, who drove a ball that went over Goodrum's head in right for an RBI double. Goodrum made up for it with a three-run homer in the eighth, lofting a 401-foot drive to right off Zach McAllister.
Goodrum became the first Tigers hitter with a multi-homer game since Efren Navarro did it against the Twins last Sept. 23. He also helped solidify his spot on the roster once Martin comes back as expected at the end of the week.
"Getting here is a dream come true," Goodrum said. "Now it's just figuring out how to stay up here. Every day you have to adjust."
Monday was a big day.
"I definitely enjoy it," he said. "I take it in. But I'll come back the next day as a new day."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Not easy being Greene: The Twins mounted a two-out, ninth-inning rally against closer Shane Greene with a Greg Allen triple, Brandon Guyer walk and Francisco Lindor single. Michael Brantley stepped to the plate as the potential tying run and forced Greene to throw one over the plate after working an 0-2 count to even. But Hicks made a lunging grab on Brantley's hard-hit hopper and got the out at first to end the threat and leave Tigers nemesis Ramirez on deck.
HE SAID IT
"Gardy set a tone for us in Spring Training. A lot of people said we weren't going to do anything, but we keep everything in the clubhouse. We protect each other. We pull for each other. We just go out and compete every day and we keep fighting." -- Goodrum
Francisco Liriano (3-1, 3.35 ERA) will get a chance to avenge a hard-luck April loss in Cleveland as the series continues Tuesday with a 7:10 p.m. ET game at Comerica Park. The Tigers will try to give Liriano some run support against struggling Josh Tomlin (0-4. 8.06).
Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.