A ten game road trip that will take the Detroit Tigers to Houston and Oakland next, began in Cleveland on Friday night, and it didn’t go too well. Zach Plesac dominated the Tigers bats on a night when the pitching staff needed some help, and they fell 4-1.
Signs were not auspicious for the Tigers from the start. Schedule pitcher Julio Teheran couldn’t get his right triceps loosened up in pre-game warmups, and had to be scratched. Manager A.J. Hinch turned to Derek Holland instead, and apart from one pitch he’d like back, Holland handled the situation reasonably well despite getting little help from his defense, his catcher, nor the home plate umpire.
The Tigers did their best to jump on Cleveland’s Zach Plesac in the top of the first. With Robbie Grossman getting the day off, Willi Castro led off with a two-strike flare into right field for a leadoff single. Jeimer Candelario clubbed a deep fly ball that was run down by Amed Rosario just shy of the wall in straightaway centerfield, and Miguel Cabrera followed with a line out right at Eddie Rosario in left. Nomar Mazara grounded out, and it was Holland time.
Amed Rosario led off with a single, but Holland blew Cesar Hernandez away on three pitches. Unfortunately, a potential double play ball back up the middle hit the bag at second off the bat of Jose Ramirez, and Rosario motored to third. The Tigers couldn’t convert a ground ball off the bat of Eddie Rosario into the double play, and Amed Rosario scored. There hadn’t been a hard hit ball at that point, and Holland was getting squeezed by both the home plate ump and some mediocre receiving from Wilson Ramos. However, the next mistake was all his, as he grooved a fastball over the plate to slugger Franmil Reyes, and watched it disappear into the bleachers in left. Cleveland led 3-0.
The game settled into a rapid pace in innings two through six. Holland settled in nicely, overcoming a Willi Castro throwing error in the second, and got the first two batters in the third before Hinch called on Buck Farmer to face Reyes. The slugger grounded one off the glove of a diving Niko Goodrum at second for a single, but Farmer struck out Josh Naylor with a set of nasty changeups to end the frame. Farmer cruised in the fourth, and Michael came on for a clean fifth inning.
Unfortunately, a Niko Goodrum single in the third, and a Willi Castro two-out single in the sixth were the Tigers only hits as Plesac settled in, pounding the top of the zone with fastballs and dropping his deceptive changeup off the same eyeline into the zone for whiffs and called strikes.
In the sixth, Fulmer made one mistake, a fastball grooved down the middle to Reyes, and again the big man absolutely crushed it, driving it into the bushes to straightaway centerfield. Overall Fulmer was otherwise very good once again.
Notably, Hinch really stretched Fulmer out in this one, letting him come back out to complete the eighth inning. Apart from a hard grounder off Jonathan Schoop’s glove that was ruled a hit by the home scorekeeper, Fulmer had no trouble in the frame. He finished with five punchouts and just the Reyes solo shot against him in four innings of work. He threw 68 pitches total, so if Teheran misses his next start and Spencer Turnbull isn’t quite ready to return, the logical step would be to start Fulmer in five days. Hopefully it won’t be necessary.
Plesac came back out in the seventh and continued relentlessly pounding the zone, while the Tigers managed nothing but pop-ups and weak grounders against him. Plesac didn’t allow a walk, got strike one on 20 of 23 Tigers hitters he faced, and the Tigers couldn’t adjust and ambush him at any point.
The Tigers were quite happy to see Bryan Shaw enter the game in relief in the eighth. Wilson Ramos quickly greeted him by crushing a hanging slider to centerfield for a solo to close the deficit to three runs. Akil Baddoo followed with a nice at-bat, taking Shaw to a 3-2 count and ultimately drawing a walk. The Tigers had no outs yet, and it was clearly their chance to make something happen. They did not make something happen.
Niko Goodrum couldn’t lay off a 3-2 cutter away and struck out swinging. JaCoby Jones went down easy on three pitches, and Willi Castro flew out to strand Baddoo at first.
The Indians turned to hard-throwing Emmanuel Clase to close this one out. Clase did his thing, cruising through the middle of the Tigers order with 100 mph cutters, and that was all she wrote.