DETROIT — Michael Fulmer had more shattered bats than base hits allowed over three scoreless innings in his latest piggyback start, but he could only do so much for the Tigers opposite Indians starter Zach Plesac. Delino DeShields tripled and scored on a Francisco Lindor sacrifice fly in the fifth
Though the Tigers ended a 20-game losing streak to the Indians last month in Cleveland, the Tribe have still won 12 consecutive games at Comerica Park since last season, including all five meetings so far this year. The latest denied Detroit an opportunity to gain ground on Toronto in the American League postseason race; the Tigers remain 4 1/2 games behind the Blue Jays for the eighth and final AL playoff spot.
While Plesac picked up where he left off against the Tigers last season, having allowed one run in 10 innings in 2019, Detroit stayed close thanks to Fulmer, who delivered a much-welcome bounceback outing as he builds up from Tommy John surgery.
Fulmer had allowed nine runs on 13 hits over five innings in his previous two outings, and he yielded five runs over three innings in Cleveland in an Aug. 21 start. The Indians took their swings again this time around and they didn’t miss much, but while Fulmer produced just three swinging strikes on 44 pitches, none of the contact was solid.
Cleveland’s hardest-hit ball off him, a Tyler Naquin fly ball to the left-field warning track, had a 97.8 mph exit velocity, according to Statcast. It was the only ball hit harder than 92 mph off Fulmer, which was right around Fulmer’s average fastball velocity on a chilly Michigan evening at autumn’s onset.
Twice, the Indians tried to use their speed to manufacture a run off piggyback reliever Tyler Alexander, who loaded the bases in a 28-pitch fourth inning. José Ramírez tried to steal home on a 2-2 pitch with two outs and he seemingly had the jump, but a deft tag from Austin Romine retired him to end the threat.
An inning later, DeShields pulled a line drive into left-center and past Victor Reyes, who was playing him to the opposite field. The ball rolled to the center-field wall as DeShields sped into third base, allowing him to score two pitches later on Lindor’s fly ball to center. The Tigers held it there with help from a Derek Hill highlight sprint and catch in the left-field gap in the eighth inning and a Gregory Soto escape from Bryan Garcia’s bases-loaded jam in the ninth. Romine left the latter frame after taking a 98 mph Soto sinker in the dirt off his left wrist as he attempted to block it.
By contrast, Detroit’s lone runner in scoring position against Plesac came on its lone extra-base hit against the Cleveland righty — a Willi Castro one-out double in the opening inning. Plesac then walked Miguel Cabrera before striking out the Tigers’ hottest hitter, Jeimer Candelario, and retiring Harold Castro to strand the runner.
Plesac retired 13 consecutive Tigers after Harold Castro’s fourth-inning single until Reyes’ two-out single in the eighth brought up Willi Castro. One night after Indians starter Shane Bieber stayed in the game in a similar situation and gave up a three-run homer, Cleveland acting manager Sandy Alomar Jr. turned to his bullpen. James Karinchak walked Willi Castro, but fanned Cabrera on a 95 mph fastball to end the threat.
Daz Cameron’s second Major League hit, a pinch-hit triple, put the potential tying run on third with one out in the ninth inning, but Tribe closer Brad Hand struck out Jorge Bonifacio and Niko Goodrum for his 13th save.
Plesac (4-2) improved to 2-0 in three career starts against the Tigers, allowing just one run on 10 hits over 17 2/3 innings.