Detroit – The Cleveland Indians limped into Comerica Park Thursday night dragging an eight-game losing streak. They had slid back to the pack in the wild-card race, leading the Tigers by 4.5 games coming into this four-game series.
Theoretically, this could’ve been a pivotal weekend for the Tigers.
Jose Ramirez had four hits, blasted a pair of home runs and knocked in four to send the Indians to a 10-3 romp, expelling whatever air might’ve still been holding the Tigers’ wild card hopes afloat.
Casey Mize, the Tigers first overall pick in the 2018 draft who pitched five innings of no-hit ball against the White Sox in his last outing, didn’t make it out of the fourth inning in this one.
He’d hung a split-fingered fastball to Ramirez in the first inning that ended up 404 feet into the seats in right field. But he settled in and dispatched seven straight through three innings before it all unraveled in a 38-pitch, four-run fourth.
After Cesar Hernandez led off the fourth with a single to left, Ramirez blasted a 3-2 fastball into the seats in right. Mize’s control faltered and the Indians loaded the bases with a couple of walks and a single.
He got Josh Naylor to pop out, but third baseman Isaac Paredes misplayed a ground ball right at the bag at third that would have ended the inning.
When Mize walked Francisco Lindor, the ninth Indians player to bat in the fourth, his day was done. Three of the five runs against him were earned. He gave up four hits and three walks and had just one strikeout and four whiffs on 32 swings.
Lefty Nick Ramirez kept Mize’s line from being completely gaudy, striking out Hernandez to strand the three runners.
But the wounds were fatal, especially with right-hander Shane Bieber starting for the Indians.
The leading candidate for American League Cy Young honors, Bieber came into the start leading the league in strikeouts (102), ERA (1.53) and wins (7). None of those rankings were seriously harmed — he was virtually untouched for seven innings.
But the Indians inexplicably left him in the game to pitch the eighth with a 10-run lead as his pitch count climbed to 118. He gave up a double to Isaac Paredes and walked pinch-hitter Derek Hill, and with two outs, Willi Castro lined a three-run homer down the line in right.
Before that, though, two softly-struck singles – by Jorge Bonifacio and Austin Romine – were all the Tigers managed against him.
Bieber, using primarily his four-seam fastball, knuckle curve and change-up, struck out 10. It was the 11th straight start that he’s posted at least eight strikeouts, He got 21 swings and misses and 18 called strikes.
The Indians extended their lead scoring four runs off Jordan Zimmermann, who made just the second relief appearance of his career. They nicked him for three runs in the seventh, two shift-busting singles and a two-run single up the middle by Franmil Reyes.
They got two more runs off Zimmermann in the eighth on a two-out double by Hernandez — a slicing liner that Bonifacio tracked but couldn’t catch — and a seeing-eye single by Ramirez on a ball he literally threw his bat at.