Having returned to the formula that has sparked their recent tear, the Cleveland Indians appear to have a decent chance to catch their rivals atop the AL Central.
The red-hot Indians will try for their 12th win in 14 games and draw even with the first-place Detroit Tigers in the series finale at Comerica Park on Sunday.
After having their four-game winning streak snapped in the opener, Cleveland (19-15) bounced back with solid starting pitching and timely hitting in a 7-6 victory at Detroit on Saturday.
Ubaldo Jimenez struck out eight and allowed one run over six innings to outpitch Justin Verlander before closer Chris Perez got Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera to ground out with runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth."He chopped it," said Perez, who got his sixth save to move the Indians within one game of the Tigers for the lead in the division. "I wanted him to put something in play, but down. Luckily he did."
Cleveland starters have limited opponents to four or fewer runs in 11 of 13 games, posting a 3.21 ERA during that span. Right-hander Zach McAllister (3-3, 2.63 ERA) will try to add to that impressive stretch while pitching Cleveland into a first-place tie.
After a 1-3 start with 3.52 ERA over his first four starts, McAllister has allowed just two runs over 14 2-3 innings in back-to-back victories.
He struck out four and yielded five hits over 7 2-3 innings in a 1-0 victory over Oakland on Tuesday and has allowed three earned runs or less in all six starts."He's learning so fast," manager Terry Francona said. "When you tell him something, even in passing, he takes it into the game. The game's not speeding up at all. He's executing pitches."
While he's yet to earn a decision, McAllister has a 2.04 ERA in three career starts against the Tigers. He gave up six hits and no earned runs over five innings in a 5-4 loss in his only career outing at Detroit on Sept. 28, 2011.
The Tigers (20-14) counter with Rick Porcello , who makes his first start since May 2 after having his turn skipped in the rotation.
Porcello (1-2, 7.52) had a disastrous start with a 13.09 ERA over his first three outings, but has allowed six runs and 10 hits over 13 1-3 innings in his last two outings - both Detroit victories.
The right-hander is 1-3 with a 6.62 ERA over his last seven starts against the Indians and hasn't beaten them since Sept. 6, 2011.
This time, he'll have to contend with a Cleveland team that went 5 for 15 with runners in scoring position on Saturday and has hit .341 in those situations over its last 14 games.
Carlos Santana is 11 for 26 with two homers and 11 RBIs in those spots and 9 for 24 with three homers lifetime against Porcello.
Asdrubal Cabrera , who went 3 for 5 with two RBIs on Saturday, is 13 for 34 in this matchup.
Detroit, which hopes to avoid its fourth loss in five games, has gotten big production from its middle infielders.
|May 01, 2013||Vinnie Pestano||15-Day DL||Right elbow soreness|
|April 30, 2013||Nick Swisher||Day-to-Day||Sore left shoulder|
|April 25, 2013||Lou Marson||15-Day DL||Right shoulder soreness|
|April 20, 2013||Asdrubal Cabrera||Day-to-Day||Left game - left wrist contusion|
|April 20, 2013||Brett Myers||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|April 16, 2013||Jason Kipnis||Day-to-Day||Sore elbow|
|April 26, 2013||Phil Coke||15-Day DL||Left groin strain|
|April 26, 2013||Phil Coke||15-Day DL||Left groin strain|
|April 21, 2013||Octavio Dotel||Day-to-Day||Elbow inflammation|
|April 20, 2013||Octavio Dotel||15-Day DL||Right elbow inflammation|
|April 09, 2013||Victor Martinez||Day-to-Day||Lacerated right thumb|
|March 22, 2013||Avisail Garcia||15-Day DL||Bruised right heel|
DETROIT (AP) -- Terry Francona 's Cleveland Indians passed their first test against the defending American League champions.
They beat Justin Verlander on Saturday night and rallied against Jose Valverde on Sunday. When it was over, Cleveland had taken two of three from the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park.
Pinch-hitter Mark Reynolds had a tiebreaking single in the 10th inning to give the Indians a 4-3 victory in the series finale. Cleveland tied the game with a run off Valverde in the ninth.
"That was as good a team effort as you are ever going to see," said Francona, who took over as Cleveland's manager before this season. "We left some guys on base early, and that's tough against any team, much less that one. But we kept playing and we got it in the end."
Cleveland tied it in the ninth when Michael Brantley hit a two-out RBI single off Valverde. Joe Smith (1-0) pitched the bottom of the inning, and the Indians took the lead in the 10th.
With men on first and third and one out in the 10th, Michael Bourn hit a slow grounder to shortstop Jhonny Peralta , who threw home in time to get Asdrubal Cabrera . Reynolds followed with a single to left off Darin Downs (0-1) that slipped past third baseman Miguel Cabrera 's diving attempt.
"With two strikes, I'm just trying to shorten up my swing and get something into play," Reynolds said. "He threw me a changeup, and I was able to get it on the ground and past Cabrera. That felt good."
The game wasn't over yet, though. Cleveland closer Chris Perez , who retired Miguel Cabrera with the potential winning run on base Saturday night, wasn't available, so Rich Hill got the first two outs of the Detroit 10th, and Cody Allen finished for his first career save.
"He had a taxing outing 12 hours ago, so I told him I wanted him to be honest with me when he started to warm up," Francona said of Perez. "To his credit, he did just that, so I told him we'd find another way to win the game."
The Indians have won 15 of 20, and Sunday's win brought them even with the Tigers atop the AL Central.
Cleveland has not lost any of its last seven series.
The Tigers were prepared to let Valverde leave via free agency in the offseason, but they ended up bringing him back on a minor league deal. He was back in Detroit as the closer by the end of April, and he hadn't allowed a run in five appearances before Sunday.
But he walked two in the ninth before Brantley's tying single.
"You have to respect the hitter, too," Valverde said. "You have to remember, this guy is a big leaguer, too."
Detroit threatened in the bottom of the ninth when Andy Dirks led off with a single, but Torii Hunter couldn't get a bunt down and ended up hitting into a 1-6-3 double play - Asdrubal Cabrera had to spin awkwardly near second because of Smith's slightly inaccurate throw, but he made the turn successfully.
"That's just a fantastic, athletic play," Francona said. "The throw was tailing away from him, but he caught it, managed to keep his foot on the bag and then throws Torii out with nothing but arm strength."
That meant Miguel Cabrera had to hit with the bases empty, and his flyout sent the game to extra innings.
Asdrubal Cabrera doubled leading off the 10th and went to third on Nick Swisher 's tapper to the pitcher. After Carlos Santana was intentionally walked, the Tigers got a big out when Asdrubal Cabrera was thrown out at home.
But Reynolds came through for the Indians, driving home Santana from second.
Brayan Pena homered for the Tigers, and Detroit starter Rick Porcello allowed two runs and four hits in six innings. He struck out six and walked two.
Zach McAllister allowed two earned runs and eight hits in six innings for the Indians.
Pena's two-run homer in the second opened the scoring. The Indians tied it the following inning on a two-run double by Jason Kipnis .
Detroit scored an unearned run in the fourth after Cleveland third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall threw wildly to first on Peralta's grounderl for a two-base error. Pena's grounder up the middle hit second base for an infield single, and Omar Infante drove in Peralta with a sacrifice fly.
NOTES: There was some light rain during the middle of the game on a chilly day at Comerica Park. ... Detroit OF Austin Jackson had the day off with a sore right hamstring. ... Cleveland OF Ryan Raburn started against his former team. He made a shoe-top catch in the first on a line drive by Prince Fielder and was hit by a pitch in the fourth. ... Miguel Cabrera extended his hitting streak to 11 games. ... Detroit hosts Houston on Monday night. Anibal Sanchez (3-3) starts for the Tigers against Bud Norris (4-3). The Indians play a doubleheader at home against the New York Yankees . Justin Masterson (3-3) takes the mound for Cleveland in the opener, and Trevor Bauer (1-1) will pitch the second game for the Indians.