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'It's huge': Tigers club three homers, take first series vs. Indians since 2018

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Cleveland – Twenty-game losing streak – done, snapped on Friday.

No series win since 2018 – forget about it.

The Tigers exorcised some lingering demons in Cleveland this weekend. They slugged three home runs Sunday and beat the Indians 7-4 – their first series win against the Indians, and in Cleveland, since September 2018.

"It was huge," said lefty Daniel Norris, whose stingy relief work in the middle innings was pivotal. "We obviously knew about the streak, so it was good to break that up Friday, and then to take the series today was huge.

The Tigers' Niko Goodrum rounds the bases after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning.

"We are all pretty psyched."

After Norris, in relief of rookie Tarik Skubal, choked out an Indians rally in three pitches in the bottom of the third inning, the Tigers broke open a 1-1 game in the top of the fourth in a span of four pitches against Indians starter Carlos Carrasco.

So, the entire game turned on seven pitches – baseball.

"When you get a pitcher out there who's banging it in there and working quick, that's when everyone relaxes on the offensive side," manager Ron Gardenhire said. "Daniel gave us a great opportunity. Great pick-em-up by Daniel."

Niko Goodrum, in a 3-for-35 skid, started the fourth with his fifth home run. After JaCoby Jones doubled, Jorge Bonifacio hit a first-pitch fastball deep into the left-field grandstands. Just like that, the Tigers were up 4-1.

BOX SCORE: Tigers 7, Indians 4

"A win is always amazing," said Goodrum. "Happy flight. You get a W and it makes everything better."

Norris, who was taken out of the rotation essentially for rookies Skubal and Casey Mize, kept the Indians in check through the sixth inning. He gave up just two hits and struck out four.

"He just wants to pitch," Gardenhire said. "He's gone through an awful lot while we were doing summer camp (on the COVID list) and he's still trying to get it all figured out. But the last couple of times he's come out like lightening and thrown the ball well.

"His mechanics look clean. If he can keep it up, he's going to be a really good piece in that bullpen."

Since returning to the bullpen, Norris has allowed just two runs in 11.1 innings. He has an 11-1 strikeout to walk rate.

More: 'Extremely valuable': Tigers think crash course in tougher pitching will pay off for Riley Greene

It's not the return to the bullpen that's motivating him, though.

"I'd love to start, don't get me wrong," he said. "But I wouldn't say that's my driving force. My driving force is just getting people out. I'm pretty psyched about what I've been working on with my mechanics.

"The hard work is paying off, I guess. But I just want to win ballgames."

Skubal, in his second big-league start, needed 69 pitches to get into the third inning, the experienced Indians hitters extended at-bats with a lot of foul balls (17 of them). Still, he struck out five and got 11 swings-and-misses, seven with a four-seam fastball that ranged in velocity from 88-97 mph.

"I think I did a better job of competing," he said. "I feel like I pitched with more intent and more focus."

That was especially true of his fastball.

"Yeah, I just felt like I was throwing it with more conviction," Skubal said. "Throwing it more aggressively. I didn't try to guide it as much and it had more life."

For the second straight start, though, he gave up a leadoff home run. Cesar Hernandez got him this time, but it didn’t seem to rattle Skubal. He gave up a leadoff double to Jordan Luplow in the second and then struck out the side.

"He's just trying to find himself," Gardenhire said. "He'll get comfortable with his situation and everything will go smoothly. He's got great stuff."

The Tigers, as they did Friday in snapping the 20-game losing streak to the Indians, kept scoring runs.

Grayson Greiner blasted a one-out home run to left in the sixth. Then after a walk and a single, Miguel Cabrera delivered a two-out RBI single to right. It was career RBI No. 1,707 for Cabrera, tying him with Adrian Beltre for 21st all-time.

Tigers starting pitcher Tarik Skubal delivers against the Indians during the first inning.

In the eighth inning, Willi Castro delivered a two-out RBI single. The former Indians farmhand, who homered on Saturday, had two hits Sunday.

Rookie Isaac Paredes had three hits, including a double. 

Goodrum, who wasn't happy getting the day off Saturday in the midst of his struggles, responded with a home run, double and two walks. The only time he was retired was on a diving catch in center field by Greg Allen. 

"He gave me knuckles afterward," Gardenhire said. "But he's still mad at me. Players are never going to admit they might need a little bit of a break. ... You just have to give it to do it for them yourself. 

"That's where I get a lot of bad looks. But, you know what, it's going to help them. And I think it did."

Following Norris to the mound, Gregory Soto and Buck Farmer dispatched six straight Indians hitters in the seventh and eighth. 

More: Risk-reward? Tigers won't discourage Casey Mize from using split-fingered fastball

But it got a little dicey in the ninth. Joe Jimenez, who had worked just 1.1 innings over the last 13 games, couldn't kick off the rust quick enough and managed only one out. He walked the first two hitters he faced and then was tagged for a three-run home run by Allen, cutting the lead in half.

"It wasn't the situation, it was the lack of work," Gardenhire said. "We haven't been able to get him enough work here these last couple of weeks. But you still have to be ready to get people out."

Jose Cisnero, who had to get warm up in a hurry, closed it out for his first career save.

The Tigers come home for seven games with an 11-15 record.

Twitter @cmccosky