CLEVELAND (AP)—Slipping further behind Detroit in the standings was an option the Cleveland Indians couldn’t fathom.
With their promising season in danger of unraveling, they needed a victory badly.
“On a scale of 1 to 10?” closer Joe Borowski asked. “A 12.”
Fausto Carmona struck out a career-high 10 and finally got his 14th win as the Indians regained a share of the division lead with Detroit by beating the Tigers 5-2 on Wednesday night to split the two-game AL Central showdown series.
Franklin Gutierrez hit a two-run homer for Cleveland, which snapped a four-game losing streak. And although the Indians are just 14-18 since the All-Star break, they’re right where they want to be.
“It feels like we’ve been fighting ourselves out there,” Borowski said. “It was good to see different guys contribute. I hope that’s an indication of things to come.”
Carmona (14-7) dominated Detroit, allowing one earned run and four hits in eight innings. He snapped a personal three-game losing streak, a skid during which the slumping Indians scored just two runs.
But staked to an early 3-1 lead, Carmona unleashed his filthy breaking pitches on the Tigers, and picked up his first win since beating Boston 1-0 on July 25.
“Whew, Carmona was something,” Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge said. “First of all, he has an incredible sinker, but he’s throwing a slider and changeup for strikes, too. All night, I saw one, maybe two pitches up in the zone. Everything else was on the black or at the knees—and with movement.”
Carmona’s outing came at the right time for the Indians, who had forgotten what it was like to win in front of their fans. Cleveland is just 5-13 at Jacobs Field after starting the season 33-13 at home.
The Tigers and Indians, who have flip-flopped in and out of first place the past few weeks, will play six more times. Cleveland visits Detroit from Aug. 21-23, and the Tigers return to Jacobs Field from Sept. 17-19.
Cleveland manager Eric Wedge was pleased with his team’s all-around effort, less than 24 hours after criticizing his players.
“You have to put a lot more stock in a game like this,” Wedge said. “This was a big win for us.”
Gutierrez hit a two-run homer for Cleveland in the second off rookie Jair Jurrjens (0-1), a 21-year-old right-hander who was called up from Double-A Erie to make his major league debut in a pressure-packed pennant race.
Jurrjens, the first native of Curacao to pitch in the majors, gave up four runs and five hits in seven innings—a solid performance considering the setting.
“I was in a fantasy world,” Jurrjens said. “This was the first time my dad saw me pitch (as a professional). I recognized his whistle in the crowd. That was the best feeling ever. I thought I pitched OK, but that Carmona was incredible. He has the best two-seamer in the game.”
Carmona took a two-hitter and a 4-1 lead into the eighth, and was on the verge of being chased when he came up with his biggest pitches.
Inge singled and scored on Curtis Granderson’s major league-leading 19th triple. With the teeth of Detroit’s lineup due up, Carmona struck out Marcus Thames, retired Gary Sheffield on a line drive and got Magglio Ordonez, the AL’s leading hitter, to foul out.
“He really dug in there,” Wedge said. “Talk about raising the level of your game.”
The Indians scored once in the eighth to give Borowski a little more cushion, and the right-hander, who gave up four runs in the 10th inning of Tuesday’s 6-2 loss, worked the ninth for his 33rd save in 37 tries.
The Tigers were undermanned and under the weather. All-Stars Ivan Rodriguez and Placido Polanco sat out with a flu bug that infested Detroit’s clubhouse. Outfielder Craig Monroe and closer Todd Jones were also sick and didn’t play, and the Tigers were hoping Justin Verlander, scheduled to start Thursday’s series opener in New York, would shake off his symptoms in time to face the Yankees.
Travis Hafner, who joked before the game that he would try to avoid aggravating a pulled hamstring by hitting stand-up doubles, did just that leading off the second. With two outs, Gutierrez drove a 3-2 pitch over the wall in right-center as the Indians matched their run total in Carmona’s three previous starts.
Gutierrez’s shot also ended an 0-for-15 slide with runners in scoring position for the Indians.
“It was important to stop the slide and get the offense going a little bit,” Hafner said. “We have a lot of work to do still. But it’s a start.”
Granderson’s 19 triples are the most by a Tigers player in 67 years. Barney McCoskey also had 19 in 1940. … Indians 1B Ryan Garko was lifted for a pinch-hitter in the eighth because of a sore right groin. Cleveland is off Thursday before playing a weekend series at Tampa Bay. … Hafner might be slow on the basepaths, but his comedic timing is up to speed. Asked before the game if the sore knee and hamstring he has are similar to any previous injuries, he quipped, “I don’t run fast enough to have leg problems.” … Following their four-game series in New York, the Tigers will host the Indians for three games and the Yankees for four.