A four-run inning can cure a lot of offensive woes, and that certainly proved to be the case for the Cleveland Indians in the nightcap of a doubleheader against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park in Detroit Saturday night.
Fresh off of a stinging late-inning comeback from Detroit in Game 1, the Indians (43-37) plated four runs off starter Jordan Zimmerman in the top of the sixth inning, and that offensive outburst led to a 4-1 victory, which secured a split in the doubleheader with the Tigers (36-44).
With the split, the Indians maintained at least a two-game lead over the Minnesota Twins and Kansas City Royals, who played a doubleheader at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City.
The Tigers scored first with a run in the bottom of the second inning.
Down in the count, 0-2, center fielder Mikie Mahtook fouled off a pitch and took two more throws out of the strike zone before singling to right field and driving in third baseman Nicholas Castellanos, who led off the inning with a double to left field.
Initially, Zimmerman made the lead stand up, but in the sixth inning, the Indians got to him for the four runs and never looked back.
Catcher Roberto Perez led off the sixth with a single to right field, and second baseman Jason Kipnis followed with a double to left, which put runners on second and third and nobody out. After getting just one hit in their first five innings, both Perez and Kipnis went to the opposite field with their swings.
Two batters after Kipnis, left fielder Michael Brantley smacked a game-tying RBI groundout to second base. Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion followed with a single to right field, which drove in the go-ahead run for the Indians.
Encarnacion flared a 3-2 pitch from Zimmerman over the second baseman for what turned out to be the game-winning run, but the Indians were far from done. The Indians chased Zimmerman from the game when third baseman Jose Ramirez belted the first pitch of his at-bat deep into the seats in right field for a two-run home run.
The first five hitters in Cleveland’s lineup each went 1 for 4 in the nightcap, and the heart of the order, Brantley, Encarnacion and Ramirez, accounted for all of the Indians’ RBI.
The Indians’ four-run inning came on the heels of a near bench-clearing incident after Zimmerman threw behind and hit Cleveland first baseman Carlos Santana in the top of the fifth. The incident started a half-inning earlier, as Indians starter Carlos Carrasco drilled Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias in the bottom of the fourth.
After the lively exchange that saw Santana walk toward and yell at Zimmerman, the Indians had four hits off Detroit’s starter, while the Tigers went down in order in each of the next three innings and had only one baserunner over the final five frames.
Carrasco allowed four hits, one walk and one earned run against seven strikeouts over seven innings of work. In his previous start, Carrasco surrendered six hits and eight earned runs over just 3.1 innings in a wild 15-9 win against the Texas Rangers Monday night.
Closer Cody Allen pitched a scoreless eighth inning with one walk and two strikeouts, and left-handed standout Andrew Miller needed just eight pitches to close out the save.
Miller was aided heavily by the full-extension catch from center fielder Bradley Zimmer for the second out of the inning. Mahtook belted a pitch toward the gap in left-center field, but on a dead sprint, Zimmer tracked the ball and timed his leap perfectly to corral the out.
Miller came off the mound with both arms extended in acknowledgement of the catch.