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Indians go deep, drill Sanchez, Tigers

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News
With Anibal Sanchez on the mound, Carlos Santana rounds the bases on his leadoff home run.

Detroit – Detroit – Sometimes the other team is just better than you.

There’s been nothing fluky or accidental about the Indians' domination of the Tigers this season. For eight straight games, they have been the vastly superior team – in every phase of the game.

They didn’t appear to break a sweat Saturday, cruising to comfortable 6-0 win behind a four-hit, complete-game shutout by right-hander Carlos Carrasco.

It was their eighth straight romp over the Tigers, winning those games by a combined score of 51-17. They now enjoy a six-game cushion over Detroit in the American League Central.

“You can’t really explain it,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “But we play them nine more times. We will see how it goes the rest of the way.”

There's been no recent evidence to suggest it will go any differently, though the Tigers will have ace Justin Verlander on the mound Sunday.

“You just look forward to tomorrow,” said Nick Castellanos, who got one of the four hits off Carrasco. “We can win our first against them tomorrow. You can’t dwell on the past in this game.”

BOX SCORE: Indians 6, Tigers 0

Anibal Sanchez got his first start since May 31 – a game in Anaheim where he gave up three home runs. The home run ball got him again.

Carlos Santana hit the second pitch of the game into the stands in right field. One batter later, Francisco Lindor hit one almost in the same spot. Both teed off on off-speed pitches from Sanchez. Santana hit a change-up and Lindor a curve.

“I tried to pitch backwards early in the game,” said Sanchez, meaning he was trying to get ahead in the count with off-speed pitches since the Indians typically hunt fastballs early in games. “But I saw they were waiting on my off-speed pitches. So I tried to be as aggressive as I could with the fastball after that.

“But the damage had already been done.”

Sanchez was able to settle down enough to get through five innings. He gave up single runs in the third and fourth, but retired the last eight hitters he faced before exiting at 87 pitches.

“I feel good, pitch-wise,” Sanchez said. “My fastball location and my pitch sequencing were good. I just tried to pitch backwards early and get ahead, and it didn’t work.”

Most likely, Sanchez will remain in the rotation for another turn. Ausmus said after the game that Mike Pelfrey, who pitched 4.1 innings Friday, will start Tuesday against Miami and Daniel Norris will go Wednesday.

Sanchez, as well as rookie Michael Fulmer, could get starts at Tampa.

“I’m not frustrated,” Sanchez said. “I’m going to keep my face up. There’s nothing I am going to lose right now. I am focused. I went to the bullpen and now I am back in the rotation. I’m just going to continue to work.”

The Indians hit two more solo home runs off reliever Mark Lowe. Lindor hit his second of the game, another long home run to right field, in the eighth. It was his first career multiple-home run game. Yan Gomes blasted a solo shot into the Tigers bullpen in left field in the ninth.

That was far more than what was needed against an overmatched Tigers offense.

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“He had really good stuff,” Castellanos said of Carrasco. “An electric fastball and a deceptive slider. Everything was working for him. It was tough to string together good at-bats.”

The Tigers had just three at-bats with a runner in scoring position, that’s how dominant Carrasco was. He struck out seven and got 12 ground ball outs. He retired six straight batters in the sixth and seventh, all on ground balls to third base.

In fact, eight of the 12 batters he faced from the fifth through the eighth grounded out routinely to third. He put down the Tigers in the eighth on four pitches.

“He had good movement,” Ausmus said. “The sinker was running in (to right-handers) and the slider was running away. With the slider you end up getting the ball up front and pulling it to the left side.”

It was the sixth time the Tigers have been shutout this season, the second time by the Indians.

“You say we weren’t swinging the bats well,” Ausmus said. “The truth is, today it was good pitching. And for 125 years good pitching has trumped good hitting.”

It was enough to make Castellanos sound like a Zen master.

“It is what it is – it’s baseball,” he said. “Wins and losses, success and failure, it’s all temporary. Tomorrow is what we’re going to focus on.”

Twitter @cmccosky