Detroit Tigers' seventh-inning surge results in 5-2 win over Indians

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Evan Petzold, Detroit Free Press
·4 min read
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With a chance to extend their one-run lead, the Detroit Tigers didn't miss. Not against AL Central rival Cleveland. Not against right-handed reliever Nick Wittgren, who replaced starter Zach Plesac.

The Tigers sent eight batters to the plate in the seventh inning and added three runs, to secure a 5-2 win over the Indians on Saturday at Comerica Park. AJ Hinch improved to 2-0 as Detroit's manager, and Bryan Garcia got a four-out save.

During the seventh, Jeimer Candelario (double), Jonathan Schoop (sac fly) and Nomar Mazara (single) each drove in one run. Candelario's RBI double was driven the opposite way to left field. He finished 3-for-4 with one walk, and Mazara went 3-for-4 with three singles. The Tigers collected 10 hits, took five walks and struck out six times.

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The Tigers' No. 2 through No. 6 hitters in the lineup — Candelario, Willi Castro, Miguel Cabrera, Scoop and Mazara — accounted for all five RBIs. Robbie Grossman, in the leadoff spot, walked twice. He has worked a walk in six of his nine plate appearances through two games.

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Detroit Tigers' Willi Castro heads to third on a triple to center field during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Detroit.
Detroit Tigers' Willi Castro heads to third on a triple to center field during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Detroit.

The Tigers are back in Comerica Park on Sunday against the Indians. Left-hander Tarik Skubal, entering his second year in the majors, gets the start against righty Aaron Civale. On Monday, the Tigers start a four-game home series against the Minnesota Twins.

Teheran gets job done

Right-hander Julio Teheran was far from graceful in his Tigers debut. He struggled to finish his pitches; his fastball velocity, which sat around 92 mph during spring training, dropped to 90 mph. But as Teheran labored, his defense took care of him. And when pressure was applied, such as in the fifth inning, Teheran completed his task.

Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Julio Teheran throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Detroit.
Detroit Tigers starting pitcher Julio Teheran throws during the first inning of a baseball game against the Cleveland Indians, Saturday, April 3, 2021, in Detroit.

Despite getting ahead 0-2 in the count, the 30-year-old walked Ben Gamel on seven pitches with two out in the fifth inning. He faced Cesar Hernandez — as AL MVP candidate Jose Ramirez watched from the on-deck circle — and got behind 2-0 in the count. Yet Teheran worked back, getting to three balls, two strikes.

His sixth pitch of the at-bat was a 90 mph sinker, which Hernandez lined to left fielder Robbie Grossman. He caught the ball in stride for the third out, helping to end Teheran's outing at 90 pitches (58 strikes) before the dreaded Ramirez matchup put Hinch in a tough position. (At the time, left-hander Derek Holland was in the Tigers bullpen. By the way, Holland tossed a clean sixth inning and got Ramirez to weakly ground out on his first pitch.)

Teheran gave up one run — a second-inning homer to Eddie Rosario — on four hits and three walks. He got three strikeouts and seven swings-and-misses. He got his whiffs with his slider (four), sinker (two) and changeup (one). His fastball averaged 90 mph.

Schoop's 1B groove

One of the key reasons why Teheran didn't allow more runs was thanchoop's excellent defense at first base. Until Saturday, Schoop had never played first base through his 847 games across nine years in the majors.

After Teheran put runners on first and second with no outs, Schoop started an unconventional 3-6-3 double play with shortstop Castro in the third inning. He was on the finishing end of a 6-4-3 double play with Castro and second baseman Niko Goodrum in the fourth inning — just after Teheran walked Rosario. And in the seventh inning, Schoop caught a foul ball with his arm extended into the Indians' dugout for the second out. Simply, there were no signs of a struggle from Schoop.

Hinch plans to continue shuffling players through first base, but it's an added benefit that Schoop seems reliable. When prospect Isaac Paredes comes up, he might need to play more second than third base because of Candelario's position. But this won't be an issue, considering Schoop isn't a liability at first base.

Fulmer's bullpen debut

Right-hander Michael Fulmer has started all 85 games in his major-league career.

Until Saturday.

He came out of the bullpen for the seventh inning, trusted to protect a one-run lead. His fastball averaged 95.4 mph — after sitting at a mere 93 mph last season. He generated three swings-and-misses with his 14 pitches (seven strikes), getting one each with his slider, four-seamer and changeup.

He struck out Andres Gimenez with a nasty slider to complete a perfect seventh frame. And Fulmer got a round of applause, something he hasn't heard in a long time, from the 8,000 fans in Comerica Park for his performance.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporter at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at epetzold@freepress.com or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit Tigers improve to 2-0 with 5-2 win over Cleveland