The Cleveland Indians are rolling out of the All-Star break, cutting into Detroit’s previously comfortable lead in the AL Central.
Carlos Santana hit a tiebreaking, bases-clearing double with two outs in the ninth inning, lifting the Cleveland Indians to a 5-2 win over the Detroit Tigers on Saturday night that sealed a sweep of the doubleheader.
The Indians have won four straight, three in a row at Detroit, to pull within 4 games of the AL Central-leading Tigers.
"It’s all about making the push, little by little," Chris Dickerson said after hitting a pair of solo homers off Max Scherzer.
Cleveland won the first game 6-2 thanks in large part to Corey Kluber‘s strong outing.
Dickerson sent two of Scherzer’s pitches — in the third and sixth innings —over walls to give Cleveland a 2-1 lead in the second game of the day-night doubleheader.
The reigning AL Cy Young Award winner said Dickerson became the first player in his career to hit one of his curveballs over a fence in the major leagues.
"He’s a good enough hitter that he’s going to capitalize," Scherzer said.
Cleveland acquired Dickerson earlier this month in a trade with the Pittsburgh Pirates for a player to be named or cash to add depth while Michael Bourn is out with a strained left hamstring.
The 32-year-old journeyman entered the game hitless in nine at-bats against Scherzer.
"Just coming out here and getting the chance to play every day, it’s a confidence booster," Dickerson said.
The Tigers tied it in the seventh when Austin Jackson hit a two-out triple to score Eugenio Suarez from first after he beat a throw on a potential double play to extend the inning.
The Indians loaded the bases in the ninth against Joe Nathan (4-3) with Roberto Perez‘s leadoff double, Jason Kipnis‘ walk and Michael Brantley’s free pass and Santana took advantage, sending a pitch off the right-center wall after it popped out of Jackson’s glove to turn a 3-all game into a 6-3 lead.
"I rushed my glove up to try and make the catch," Jackson recalled. "I missed it, and hit the wall."
Carlos Carrasco (3-3) pitched a perfect eighth and Cody Allen closed the game for his 13th save in 14 chances, but Indians manager Terry Francona was not in the mood to celebrate.
"We’ve got to show up in about 10 hours," he said late Saturday night.
Scherzer gave up six hits, a season-high matching four walks and two runs — both to Cleveland’s No. 9 hitter — over 5 2/3 innings that included a season-high 118 pitches. He pitched with neck spasms.
"There’s no excuses on ailments," Scherzer said, adding he’s not concerned the problem will linger.
Detroit’s Ian Krol and Joba Chamberlain combined to pitch 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief before Nathan gave up two hits, two walks — one intentional — and struck out two in the pivotal ninth.
Zach McAllister, the 26th man on the roster for the doubleheader, allowed only one run on three hits and three walks while striking out six over 5 1/3 innings. John Axford inherited Miguel Cabrera on second base and allowed him to get to third on a wild pitch, then stranded him by striking out J.D. Martinez and Torii Hunter to end the inning. Scott Atchison likely would have gotten out of the seventh inning without giving up a run if Kipnis did not appear to bobble the ball on a potential double play at second base that allowed Suarez to reach and later score on Jackson’s triple.
The Indians could lean on their bullpen in the nightcap because Kluber pitched so well in the first game. He came within an out of a complete game, striking out 10 to lift the Indians to a 6-2 win in the opener.
Kluber allowed seven hits — three by Miguel Cabrera — and equaled his career high of 114 pitches. Bryan Shaw finally relieved him, but with another game still to come, Cleveland didn’t have to use anyone else out of its bullpen.
"That was the only guy we warmed up," Francona said. "That really helps."
Kluber (10-6) has thrown one complete game in his career, on April 24 against Kansas City.
Drew VerHagen (0-1) allowed three runs and five hits, lasting five innings in his major-league debut.
Tigers LHP Drew Smyly (5-8) is scheduled to pitch in the series finale against Indians RHP Josh Tomlin on Sunday afternoon. … Santana hit his sixth game-winning RBI this season. … Detroit’s Nick Castellanos struck out three times and Holaday threw out three runners on steal attempts in the first game. … Cabrera is 15 for 28 (.536) against Kluber.