Indians 5, Tigers 3
DETROIT — Prior to Sunday night, the lasting memory of Comerica Park for Fausto Carmona was a bad one, featuring him grabbing his head in despair last year after allowing a walk-off home run to Pudge Rodriguez as the Indians’ closer.
Things went much better for the young right-hander this time around, with Carmona helping the Indians to a 5-3 victory Sunday night that completed a surprising sweep of Detroit.
The Indians’ fourth straight win came in front of a national television audience on ESPN and the third consecutive sellout crowd (40,273). And it kept Cleveland in first place atop the Central Division standings, 2½ games in front of the Tigers.
The lead is the largest the Indians have enjoyed since finishing their last playoff year six games in front of the Minnesota Twins in 2001.
“We still have 100 games left,” said Indians first baseman Ryan Garko, who aided Carmona’s cause with a three-run home run in the opening inning. “It’s not the biggest deal in the world. But to come in here and sweep these guys at home is pretty big for us.”
Carmona, who entered his ninth start of the season with a 5-0 record and 1.80 ERA over his last six outings, wasn’t as sharp as he has been, allowing three runs on nine hits through seven innings. But it was a quality start nonetheless and another win for Carmona, who entered the year riding a 10-game losing skid after winning his big league debut at Detroit last season.
Both his first win in the majors and Rodriguez’s walk-off were on Carmona’s mind when he took the mound Sunday, but Pudge’s homer was the freshest memory.
“Every time I was facing Rodriguez it came to my mind, ‘This is the guy. This is the guy,’” said Carmona, who since a shaky start in his first outing of the year, is 6-0 with a 2.17 ERA in his last eight starts. “It’s not that I tried any harder against him, but I was going to make sure I made good pitches to him.”
Carmona did, striking out Rodriguez the first two times he faced him before Detroit’s catcher reached on an infield single in the sixth.
Carmona allowed all of his runs in a three-run third when the Tigers strung together three straight RBI singles from Craig Monroe, Gary Sheffield and Magglio Ordonez to pull within a run.
He then proceeded to work his way in and out of jams the rest of the night.
Carmona allowed the leadoff batter to reach in each of his last three innings but did not allow a runner to cross the plate.
“He battled and he battled throughout,” said Cleveland manager Eric Wedge. “Ultimately, he was able to get through it, and with us in the lead. Obviously they’re a tough lineup, but he never gave in.”
Carmona beat an unlikely candidate in Tigers starter Mike Maroth, who has been notoriously tough on the Indians.
Maroth entered the game with a career 8-3 record and 2.71 ERA in 12 starts against Cleveland, which was tops among active pitchers facing the Indians.
The left-hander wasn’t his stifling self, though, allowing five runs on six hits and five walks and a pair of home runs to Garko and Casey Blake.
The Indians went to work early on Maroth, scoring four times in the opening inning, three on Garko’s seventh homer of the year which traveled an estimated 403 feet to left.
It was another first-inning explosion for Cleveland, which entered the game outscoring its opponents 42-26 in the opening inning.
Maroth was able to find his groove from there, stringing together three scoreless innings before Blake’s solo shot to left-center in the fifth. Blake’s homer was one of only two hits that Cleveland produced off Maroth after the first.
With a two-run lead in the ninth, the Indians went to closer Joe Borowski for the third consecutive night and the right-hander responded, working one of his few 1-2-3 innings of the year and against the top three hitters in the Tigers’ lineup — Curtis Granderson, Monroe and Sheffield.
Though he owns a 6.75 ERA in 22 appearances, Borowski has converted a league-high 17 saves in 19 opportunities.
He wasn’t concerned with his ERA or his save count, just that the Indians got out of Detroit with another win.
“Anytime you can come in here and even take a series is big,” Borowski said. “To win three is just icing on the cake.”
Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7137 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHO: Cleveland at Boston
WHERE: Fenway Park, Boston
PITCHERS: Lee (2-1, 5.93 ERA) vs. Schilling (4-2, 3.94)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio;
WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM