'Long overdue': Tigers snap 0-11 slide vs. Tribe
Cleveland – Law of averages, right? Even a stopped clock is right once a day, right? A blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while, right?
Tigers couldn’t care less. They’ve finally beaten the Cleveland Indians.
“I’ll tell you what, man, that nut still eats – it still tastes good,” said Cameron Maybin, whose two-run home run in the fourth inning helped ignite the Tigers’ 12-2 romp over the Indians Wednesday.
“It was long overdue,” said Nick Castellanos, who knocked in five runs and was a triple shy of hitting for a cycle. “But better late than never.”
One win does not avenge 11 straight losses, obviously, but bringing baseball’s longest active losing streak against one opponent to a dead stop had to feel rejuvenating, if not a little reassuring.
“It makes for a happy flight to Toronto,” manager Brad Ausmus said. “It was a good game for us. The guys really bounced back after last night’s drubbing.”
Castellanos, who was scratched from the lineup Tuesday with the flu, felt a whole lot better Wednesday. He rapped a single, double and home run, plating a career-best five runs.
Ian Kinsler had three hits and scored three runs.
But it was a wall-scraper by Maybin that got the Tigers started.
“I don’t want to say it was flat, but it was a little quiet in the dugout,” Ausmus said. “We weren’t doing much against Tomlin. There wasn’t a lot of hard contact early. But after that two-run homer, things kind of changed.”
Indians starter Josh Tomlin, who had already beaten the Tigers three times this season, set the first nine men down in order and took a 2-0 lead into the fourth inning.
But after a leadoff single by Kinsler, Maybin got just enough of an inside pitch to hit it 340 feet, barely fair and barely clearing the left field wall. According to StatCast, the exit velocity of the hit was 87.3 mph, the second softest home run this season.
“I know I didn’t get it good, but I got it good enough,” Maybin said. “I just wondering if it was going to hook.”
It landed just inside the foul pole.
“That was a huge hit for us,” Kinsler said. “We’d been trailing these guys a bunch and hadn’t had too many leads. At that point, we kind of felt like, ‘OK, take a deep breath and start over.’”
A double by Victor Martinez and a single by Castellanos set up a go-ahead sacrifice fly by Justin Upton in the same inning. It was just the Tigers second lead in 12 games against the Indians.
“The big thing was (Michael) Fulmer going out and putting up a zero that inning,” Kinsler said. “As an offense, when you fight back to tie or take the lead, and then lose it right away, that’s really tough. Mike did an unbelievable job of keeping them at bay.”
Fulmer, now 9-2 on the season, worked a quick fifth and sixth innings while the Tigers offense blew the game open.
“Shutdown innings are huge,” he said. “We had to keep the momentum on our side. The way the defense was playing and the offense exploded, I was motivated to keep the momentum on our side.”
Done. The Tigers scored five runs off Tomlin after he got the first two batters out in the fifth inning. Again it was Kinsler getting things started with a single. Maybin walked, setting the table for Miguel Cabrera.
After fouling a pitch hard off his left foot, he blistered one into the gap in right-center, scoring two runs.
“It’s amazing how we roll when me and Kinsler get on base, isn’t it?” Maybin said. “We did all that damage with two outs.”
Kinsler and Maybin combined to score six of the Tigers 12 runs.
After Martinez reached on an error by Francisco Lindor, Castellanos unloaded. He knocked his career-high 16th home run 412 feet into the bushes in center field. A three-run shot that made it 8-2.
“That was the big blow,” Ausmus said. “He’s done that for us the entire first half of the season.”
The Tigers added four more in the seventh. Castellanos smacked a two-run double and Steven Moya drilled a two-run single – hitting it off left-handed reliever T.J. House.
Asked if he thought his blast was the dagger in this game, Castellanos said, “With Cleveland, there’s been no dagger. The dagger was on that ninth-inning double play that ended the game. With those guys, they’ve beat us what, 11 times? The dagger was when we won and the game was over.”
Fulmer (9-2) wasn’t as razor sharp as he was in his last start, but he was plenty good enough to maintain the six-run lead through six innings.
“I don’t think I had my best fastball tonight, command-wise especially,” he said. “I had a few stressful innings early in the game. But the way the offense exploded got me motivated. I wanted to make sure I attacked the zone and try to get some quick outs.”
He wound up throwing 95 pitches in six innings, allowing five hits and one earned run. The other run was set up on a throwing error by right-fielder Moya.
It was his ninth straight start allowing one or fewer earned runs. He’s one of 11 pitchers to achieve that streak. Hall of Famer Bob Gibson has the record with 11 straight starts of one or fewer runs.
Since May 21, Fulmer leads the American League with seven wins and a 0.63 ERA.
“This win was huge,” Castellanos said. “It’s a big difference going into a brand new series (in Toronto) having won the last game you played than going into a brand new series having been swept.”
There is also a significant difference between being 8.5 games back of the Indians and being 6.5 games back.
“We need to get as close as we can going into the break,” Kinsler said.