December 20, 2014

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Michael Brantley’s HR in 10th lifts Indians past Tigers

The Cleveland Indians celebrate after Michael Brantley hit a game-winning solo home run off Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Al Alburquerque in the 10th inning Monday. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

The Cleveland Indians celebrate after Michael Brantley hit a game-winning solo home run off Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Al Alburquerque in the 10th inning Monday. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

CLEVELAND — Maybe this is what the Indians needed to save their sinking ship.

A visit from Central Division-leading Detroit didn’t appear to be ideal tonic for the struggling hosts, but Cleveland got the three-game series off on a high note in dramatic fashion Monday night at Progressive Field.

Snapping a four-game skid, while ending the Tigers’ six-game winning streak in the process, the Indians powered their way to a 5-4 walk-off victory in 10 innings — with Michael Brantley hitting a two-out home run off Al Alburquerque to touch off the celebration.

Cleveland Indians' Michael Brantley runs the bases and tosses his helmet before getting mobbed by teammates after hitting a solo home run off.

Cleveland Indians’ Michael Brantley runs the bases and tosses his helmet before getting mobbed by teammates after hitting a solo home run off.

It was just the second walk-off win of the season for Cleveland, which produced 11 walk-off victories in 2013.

“The way it ended was great,” manager Terry Francona said. “Brantley’s been so big for us. We played a pretty good game, and we’re going to have to beat them. They showed they’re really good. You make a mistake against them and you pay for it.

“It seemed like tonight we didn’t let our frustration get the best of us. We kept at them and finally cashed in a little bit.”

The Indians, fresh off a three-game sweep at the hands of visiting Oakland, led 4-3 heading into the ninth inning.

With deposed closer John Axford in the bullpen, Francona went with right-hander Cody Allen, who surrendered a game-tying homer to pinch hitter J.D. Martinez. It was Martinez’s first homer of the season.

Alburquerque got two quick outs in the 10th before Brantley worked the count to 3-2, then lined the payoff pitch over the wall in right field for his team-leading ninth homer.

“I had no clue (it would go out),” Brantley said. “I just tried to put a good swing on a good pitch and I was fortunate enough for it to go out. Every game we have to go out with the same mind-set — never-give-up attitude.”

The Indians got another quality outing from starting pitcher Corey Kluber, who allowed three earned runs on eight hits, while striking out eight over seven innings.

A leadoff homer from Victor Martinez in the second inning accounted for Detroit’s first run, with Kluber holding a vaunted lineup scoreless until Rajai Davis’ two-run double in the seventh.

Kluber is the first Indians pitcher since CC Sabathia to record at least eight strikeouts in four straight starts.

“Klubes pitched really well,” Francona said. “That’s a good lineup, man.”

“I felt like I did a pretty good job of working ahead and getting some quick at-bats,” Kluber said.

Davis’ double tied it at 3, but Cleveland fought back in the bottom of the inning, forging ahead on a sacrifice fly from Jesus Aguilar.

The Indians got multihit efforts from five players — Asdrubal Cabrera, Brantley, Ryan Raburn, Yan Gomes and Nick Swisher.

Swisher, batting just .196 to begin the night, reached base in three of his first four trips to the plate, producing two base hits — one to drive in a run.

The win trimmed the last-place Indians’ division deficit under double digits at 9½ games, with Cleveland set to face Detroit’s Cy Young tandem of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer in the final two games of the series.

It was the Indians’ first win over Detroit in the last six games at Progressive Field. The Tigers went 15-4 against the Indians last year, but Cleveland has taken two of the first three games this season.

“It’s huge,” Brantley said. “Hopefully it’s a momentum booster. We’ll ride that momentum.”

“This was definitely a big win for us,” Kluber said. “Hopefully it’s something to build off.”

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com. Fan him on Facebook and follow him @CAwesomeheimer on Twitter.

TONIGHT

WHO: Cleveland vs. Detroit
TIME: 7:05
WHERE: Progressive Field
PITCHERS: Bauer (0-1, 1.50 ERA) vs. Verlander (5-2, 3.15)
TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM, WMMS 100.7-FM

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