CLEVELAND, Ohio — The Indians dropped anchor at Comerica Park on Thursday night.
They arrived battered and beaten by high winds and heavy seas, not to mention an eight-game losing streak. But Comerica Park was more than just a port in a storm for the Indians. It was their safe harbor.
What better place for them to end their longest losing streak since 2012? What better way to do it?
The Indians sent Shane Bieber to the mound and Jose Ramirez to the batter’s box and turned them loose. When it was over the Indians beat the Tigers, 10-3, to regain their momentum for the postseason with just 10 games left in the coronavirus-shortened season.
Bieber (8-1, 1.74), a favorite to win the AL Cy Young, allowed three runs in 7 2/3 innings. He struck out 10 and walked two. The only runs Bieber allowed came on a three-run homer by former Tribe minor leaguer Willi Castro with two out in the eighth.
In 11 starts Bieber leads the big leagues with 116 strikeouts in 74 1/3 innings. He has struck out eight or more batters in every start and 10 or more in seven starts. It is the second longest streak by a pitcher with eight or more strikeouts to open a season in MLB history.
Acting manager Sandy Alomar visited the mound with two out in the eighth to check on Bieber. The Indians were leading, 10-0, and Bieber was at 114 pitches. Alomar let Bieber stay, but after Castro homered Cam Hill relieved.
Bieber threw a season-high 118 pitches, 74 for strikes. It matched his longest start of the season.
“Sandy told me, “If I let you go get this guy, you’re going to be up around 120 pitches, so you better get him,’” said Bieber. “I said, absolutely. It didn’t play out that way. Baseball is baseball. It’s frustrating. But at the end of the day we righted the ship and that’s what’s most important. We got the W and it’s on to the next one.”
Ramirez celebrated his 28th birthday in style. He homered in his first two at-bats off Casey Mize (0-2, 6.08), the Tigers’ top pitching prospect. Then he added a double as part of a three-run seventh inning and a single in the eighth to help guarantee the Indians their first win since Sept. 7. Ramirez went 4-for-5 with two homers and four RBI.
The switch-hitting third baseman is batting .276 has 13 homers and 32 RBI for the season. He is hitting .330 (103-for-312) with 17 homers and 68 RBI in his career against the Tigers.
“First of all Happy Birthday to Jose Ramirez,” said Alomar. “He celebrated in great fashion. . .For some reason he hits very well here. It has nothing to do with who’s pitching. Mize has pretty decent stuff, but Jose was able to get after the ball right away.”
The Indians are 4-0 at Comerica Park this season and 63-19 against the Tigers since 2016. Bieber is 2-0 against Detroit this year and 5-1 in his career.
Ramirez gave the Indians a 1-0 lead with a two-out homer in the first. He hit a 2-1 pitch deep into the right field seats. He did it again in the fourth following a bloop single by Cesar Hernandez to start the inning. This time Ramirez hit a 3-2 pitch into the right-field seats for a 3-0 lead.
During their eight-game losing streak, in which they tumbled from a first-place tie in the AL Central to six games off the pace in third place, the Indians were outscored 49-24. That was the famine side of the Indians’ feast or famine offense. Thursday night the Indians hitters dined well.
“It feels great,” said Alomar, about ending the losing streak. “I’m not saying we were far off from winning games. A lot of games were close, grinding games. We didn’t have offense in some of them. In others our bullpen couldn’t keep it up.
“The last eight or nine days haven’t been great, but the guys keep fighting every day. That’s what matters. You fight and fight and then you get a game like this. Hopefully this relaxes everybody and we can go about our business the right way.”
Struggling Franmil Reyes, in a 5-for-42 skid before the series, had a two-run single in the three-run seventh. They were just the second and third RBI for Reyes in the last 13 games. Like Ramirez, Reyes loves to face the Tigers. He came into Thursday’s game hitting .348 (8-for-23) with four homers and nine RBI against Detroit this season.
Bieber, who combined with Hill on a four-hitter, felt the Indians handled the pressure of the losing streak well.
“Everybody in this clubhouse maybe young, but we’re very mature, at least in our thought process,” said Bieber. “We know the more pressure we put on ourselves, it generally doesn’t work out great that way. . .Coming into today we had one goal. . .that was to win.
“It would be nice to go into the postseason with some momentum and that’s what we’re working toward. A lot of good teams make it, but a lot of hot teams win it. If we can get going now I think we’ll be in a good spot.”
The Indians will send RHP Zach Plesac (3-2, 2.20) against the Tigers and right-hander Michael Fulmer (0-2, 9.27) on Friday night at 7:10. SportsTime Ohio, WTAM and WMMS will carry the game.