DETROIT — If the Tigers can put together a productive lineup to go with their talented young pitching and surprise people this season, they’ll have the Indians and their former All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor partly to thank. For now, they can thank a long-ago deal in part for Detroit’s first 2-0 start in five years.
It was Lindor and his place in the heart of the Cleveland lineup that made Willi Castro expendable when the Tigers offered speedy center fielder Leonys Martin at the Trade Deadline in Cleveland’s playoff push in 2018. As A.J. Hinch tries to pull Detroit out of its rebuild and closer to contention, the new Tigers manager has put Castro at the heart of his effort.
Hinch shook up the Tigers lineup this spring and moved Miguel Cabrera back one spot to cleanup in favor of Castro, whose impact in the three-hole was evident in Saturday’s 5-2 win over the Indians.
As Castro’s first-inning line drive off Cleveland starter Zach Plesac zipped past Ben Gamel’s diving effort and bounced to the fence of the visiting bullpen in left-center field, Castro sped around second base and rolled into third with the first Comerica Park triple of the season. While the gapper scored Jeimer Candelario following his one-out walk, Castro’s extra base put him in position to use his speed again when Cabrera’s ensuing ground ball sent Lindor’s talented replacement, Andrés Giménez, lunging to his right.
Giménez did his job, stopping the ball with the infield in. But Castro bolted for home on contact, leaving Giménez with no choice but to throw to first for the second out. It marked the second time in as many games that the Tigers pulled in front with a two-run first inning against an Indians pitcher that had generally owned them in recent years.
Like Shane Bieber on Opening Day, Plesac settled down, holding Detroit scoreless for the next five innings. Like Matthew Boyd in Thursday’s opener, Tigers starter Julio Teheran kept Detroit on top of a low-scoring duel, holding Cleveland to an Eddie Rosario solo home run over five innings with help from the reshuffled infield defense behind him before three seventh-inning runs off the Indians bullpen put the Tigers in command.