Cleveland — It seemed odd initially that manager Ron Gardenhire had right-hander John Schreiber up so soon in the sixth inning Saturday.
After all, the Tigers were up 1-0 and lefty starter Matthew Boyd was cruising through five innings — allowing just four hits with six strikeouts, using an economical 77 pitches. It was a return-to-form performance.
But he walked Jose Ramirez to start the sixth and with right-handed slugger Franmil Reyes looming, Gardenhire decided to get the side-arming Schreiber hot.
The rationale for the move became clear, but the results ended up poor for the Tigers. The Indians ended up scoring four times in the sixth and beat the Tigers, 6-1 at Progressive Field.
BOX SCORE: Indians 6, Tigers 1
After the walk to Ramirez (who was in an 0-forr-21 skid, by the way), Boyd gave up a jam-shot single to Francisco Lindor (three hits) and got Carlos Santana to fly out.
He was at 90 pitches and Gardenhire gave him the hook.
And just as Gardenhire figured, Schreiber neutralized Reyes with a late-biting slider, going to it on 3-2 strike him out. All there was left for Schreiber to do was get right-handed-hitting Jordan Luplow, who was 1-for-16 against right-handed pitching this season.
Schreiber got ahead of him but nibbled and nibbled and eventually walked him to load the bases. Schreiber got two strikes on right-handed hitting Domingo Santana, too, but again, he nibbled and brought Santana back into the count.
This time, on 3-2, Schreiber tried to beat him with a 90-mph fastball. Santana hit a rocket through the infield — 105.8 mph exit velocity — that ended up splitting the gap in left-center, scoring all three runs.
A third right-handed hitter, Roberto Perez, singled in the fourth run of the inning.
Tough one to swallow, for sure. Especially given Boyd’s performance. He was mixing all four of his pitches from the start and had the Indians’ hitters off-balance. He threw 23 change-ups and got eight swings and misses with it.
He also had much better command of his four-seam fastball. He was able to get it in on right-handed hitters, something he’d struggled to do in his previous starts. He was charged with two runs, but he gave up only five hits with six strikeouts.
The Tigers, meanwhile, were being stymied by a lithe, power-armed right-hander making quite a spectacular big-league debut. Triston McKenzie, who because of an assortment of injuries hadn’t pitched since 2018, struck out 10 Tigers in six innings.
Nine of the 10 strikeouts came on fastballs, most of those up in the strike zone. The only Indians pitcher to top that in his big-league debut — Luis Tiant, who fanned 11 in 1964.
Of the two hits the Tigers managed off him, one was a solo home run by former Indians farmhand Willi Castro. The Tigers managed just one hit off three Indians’ relievers from the seventh through the ninth.
The loss drops the Tigers to 10-15.