DETROIT — After losing 5-1 to the Tigers on Sunday, Indians manager Terry Francona was not in much of a mood to look back and reflect on taking three of four in Detroit. With seven games remaining on what is shaping up as the most important road trip of the season.
Going into the series, most people would have been happy if the Indians did not lose ground in the division. Instead, they cut two games off of Detroit’s lead and are within 5½ games. The key though is capitalizing off of that momentum. That is something the Indians didn’t do after they swept Detroit in a three-game series in May as they went 2-5 on a subsequent road trip.
"When we win or lose I don’t want to be too up or too down. I prefer to talk about today because that is what is on our plate," Francona said. "I think if you start making yourself feel too good about what you did before that’s not helpful."
The Indians are 7-3 against their division brethren this month with three upcoming at Minnesota and four in Kansas City to close out the trip. They are getting closer to being in buy mode at the trade deadline, but the next week is vital.
"The way we played here this series lets everyone know where we stand and we’ve got the right mindset for the second half," said Nick Swisher. "We feel good where we are right now. This is a huge road trip and it’s crazy to say things mean a lot in July but playing all division guys and on a road trip like this we have to play well."
Better on the road: For the first two months the Indians had the worst road winning percentage in the Majors (.321) as they won just nine of their first 28 road games. Since then though, they are 12-10 and have wins in five of their last six.
By taking three of four at Detroit, they have taken three of the last seven road series while dropping two and splitting two. In the first two months, they took only two series away from Progressive Field, lost five and split two.
Overall, the Indians are 7-5 against Detroit after losing 15 of 19 last season.
Cleveland goes to Minnesota for three games, where they have won seven of their last eight at Target Field.
Strong start to second half: Yan Gomes, who accounted for the Tribe’s lone run with a homer in the seventh, went 6 for 10 in the series with a home run, two doubles and an RBI. He has hit safely in five straight and is 9 for 18 during that span with two homers and four RBI.
Michael Brantley (7 for 18), Jason Kipnis (5 for 15, two home runs, six RBI) and Chris Dickerson (2 for 7, two homers) also had good series.
Better late than never: Of the 21 runs the Tribe scored in this series, 16 came in the seventh inning or later. That has been the trend this season as they lead the Majors with 161 runs scored in the seventh inning or later.
In the first six innings of the Detroit series, Indians’ hitters batted .214 (18 of 84) with five runs scored. In the final three frames, they batted ..377 (20 for 53).
Josh Tomlin: The right hander allowed two runs in the first and then a Torii Hunter two-run shot in the fourth. Since pitching the complete-game, one-hitter at Seattle on June 28, Tomlin is 0-2 in the past three outings, allowing 13 runs on 24 hits, including four home runs, in 17 innings. Dating back to June 12, he is 1-5 in his past seven games.
In his 14 appearances this season, the right-hander has given up a homer in all but two starts. During the fourth inning on Sunday, he got Hunter to chase on a curveball earlier in the count but was not as successful the second time as Hunter took a 1-2 pitch into the left-field seats.
"There are the one or two mistakes in a game where I give up a home run. I have to do a better job of that," Tomlin said. "It’s limiting the guys that get on base. It’s the two- and three run shots that irritate me. I’m averaging giving up a home run a game and that isn’t right."
The rotation: Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber had solid outings over the weekend and for the moment are the only absolutes in the rotation. The hope is that Justin Masterson returns from the DL late this week but that’s not a given.
However, assuming that Masterson does make it back, that leaves four guys for the other two spots. On Saturday, Zach McAllister had his best outing since April, but can he be consistent? Tomlin has struggled for over a month to the point where his one-hitter in Seattle looks more like the exception rather than the rule.
T.J. House, who will start on Monday at Minnesota, has worked into the sixth inning on six of his eight starts and would give the Tribe a lefty in the rotation. Danny Salazar, who will be called up for Tuesday’s start, is beginning to regain his confidence but still is giving up a lot of walks.
That is why acquiring a proven starter near the trade deadline should be number one on Chris Antonetti’s list.
Lefties give them fits: Tigers’ starter Drew Smyly held the Indians without a hit for the first 4 2/3 innings. Gomes was the only one to have meaningful success off him with the homer. Smyly ended up going seven innings, allowing a run on four hits with two walks and six strikeouts.
On the year, the Indians are 13-17 and batting .245 against left-handers, which is tied for second-worst in the AL and fifth worst in the Majors. The Twins will have southpaw Kris Johnson going in Monday’s series opener.