Cleveland — Mother Nature took pity on Ryan Carpenter Tuesday.
He’d given up seven runs in the first three innings, and with storm clouds forming, manager Ron Gardenhire seemed intent on letting him pitch until the rains came. The deluge hit before Carpenter had to face another Cleveland hitter.
After a two-hour, seven-minute delay, the Indians completed their ninth straight win over the Tigers, 8-0.
"When you're down early like that, it's not much fun," Gardenhire said. "Our starter had a little struggle himself and when you are down seven and you have to come back and play — you are just trying to get through it and survive."
It was the ninth time this season the Tigers have been shut out and the fourth time by the Indians. They had just two base runners in the game — a walk by Victor Reyes in the first inning, and a single by Nick Castellanos in the fifth.
"I don't want these guys to start feeling sorry for themselves, like, 'Why is it happening to us all the time?'" Gardenhire said. "It's part of the game. You've got to grow with it and keep playing."
The Indians scored five runs with two outs in the second inning, and the rally was ignited by three left-handed hitters. The lefty Carpenter has been unable to get left-handed hitters out (.359 average, 1.067 OPS) and Indians manager Terry Francona exploited it by starting three lefties.
Jason Kipnis (double), Jake Bauers (single) and Tyler Naquin (single) got the inning going. Francisco Lindor and Oscar Mercado did the heavy lifting. Lindor reached out and poked one down to right field. It would’ve likely sliced foul, but first baseman Brandon Dixon leaped for it and it hit off his glove for a two-run double.
Mercado, who hit two home runs on Monday, followed with a 330-foot opposite-field home run that just cleared the short wall in right.
Carpenter gave up back-to-back doubles to Jordan Luplow and Jose Ramirez in the third, and allowed another run to score when he missed a throw while covering first base.
Nine of the 18 batters he faced reached and seven of those scored. Rough night. Carpenter, who was optioned back to the Triple-A Toledo after the game, sat in the dugout for most of the rain delay.
"It's just the nature of where we're at right now," said Gardenhire, who added he expected a reliever to be called up before the game on Wednesday. "We're facing a really good-hitting team over there and every mistake he made it seemed like they got a hold of pretty good."
Gardenhire and pitching coach Rick Anderson talked to Carpenter after the game.
"We told him he needs to go back down and keep competing because this is probably going to happen again," Gardenhire said. "And Andy told him, it's not easy to come up here for one start, knowing that if you have a good one you might stay. It's not an easy situation.
"He's trying to handle it the best he can. He's frustrated, but it's what we've got to do."
Gardenhire said before the game that it was possible Carpenter could stay in the rotation as the fifth starter going forward. That seems less likely now. In nine starts for the Tigers, he has allowed 46 runs in 40.2 innings.
A fifth starter will be needed again on Sunday against the Blue Jays. Options include left-hander Tyler Alexander, who is on the 40-man roster and last pitched Sunday at Toledo; Beau Burrows, not on the 40-man roster and last pitched Monday; and Drew VerHagen, not on the 40-man roster and last pitched on Saturday.
The Indians' spot starter fared considerably better. Zach Plesac, who beat the Tigers in June by allowing one run in seven innings, faced the minimum nine batters in three innings.
He walked Reyes to start the game but picked him off. He had picked off JaCoby Jones back in June, meaning two of his Major-League leading five pickoffs have been Tigers runners.
Castellanos got the lone Tigers hit off reliever Tyler Clippard.
The Indians added one more run after the delay. Naquin hit a solo home run off lefty Blaine Hardy. It was the ninth home run hit off Hardy in 37.2 innings.