September 30, 2014

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Indians 6, Tigers 3: Tribe powers to win

CLEVELAND – Detroit’s Armando Galarraga was in pursuit of another historical pitching achievement against the Indians, only this time Cleveland didn’t need the benefit of an umpire’s blown call to ruin the bid.

Galarraga, who was denied of a perfect game in June when Jim Joyce mistakenly called Jason Donald safe at first base, took a no-hitter into the fifth inning Monday night.

It took one swing from Matt LaPorta to nix the notion, LaPorta hitting a solo home run to lead off a five-run inning that lifted the Indians past the Tigers, 6-3, in the opener of the final series at Progressive Field. It was Cleveland’s fourth straight win.

LaPorta’s was the first of three homers in the inning, with Luke Carlin hitting another solo shot and Travis Hafner capping the rally with a three-run homer that put the Indians in front for good.

“We were finally able to break through against Galarraga,” said Indians manager Manny Acta of the right-hander, who entered the night without allowing a run against Cleveland this year in two starts that covered 16 innings. “LaPorta’s home run was huge. It kind of broke the ice for us. Hafner gave us the big cushion with that big blast.”

It was Hafner’s 12th homer but just his second since Aug. 15. The designated hitter earning $11.5 million this season has hit for average (.275) but his power numbers have been down significantly as he continues to attempt to overcome a shoulder ailment that has plagued him since the end of 2007.

“I think he’s coming back, because last year he was unable to play three games in a row,” Acta said. “He’s been able to play four to five games a week. The production, he was expecting more, probably everybody was expecting more.

“What we hope it that next year he’ll have one more offseason under his belt for that shoulder. Hopefully he’ll show up next year without any restrictions.”

Carrasco faced the team that beat him up for six runs over three innings of his major league debut last year, ironically enough, hitting three homers off him.

Though Carrasco wasn’t at his best, the results were much more positive this time around, the right-hander allowing three runs on 11 hits over six innings.

“Carlos gave us another quality start,” Acta said. “They got some hits off him but he was able to keep his composure and work out of some jams.”

Carrasco (2-1, 3.26 ERA) was able to emerge relatively unscathed from the sticky situations, something that most likely wouldn’t have happened in 2010. He had multiple runners aboard in four of the six innings he worked, but never caved.

“Last year, I had a lot of runners in position to score that came in,” said Carrasco, who walked one and struck out five. “This year, I’ve been able to control that and relax more.”

With Carrasco gone, the Indians got another positive performance from the bullpen, a trio of pitchers – Joe Smith, Tony Sipp and closer Chris Perez – combining to shut out Detroit on two hits over the final three innings.

“Our bullpen came in after Carrasco and cleaned up everything,” Acta said.

Perez, who had not pitched in eight days – three of them spent in Tampa, Fla., for the birth of his son – retired the side in order to earn his 22nd save of the season. The right-hander has converted his last nine save opportunities.

He was all smiles in the clubhouse after the game when the subject of his son came up.

“I know since he’s been born (Friday night) we’re undefeated,” Perez said. “Maybe it’s a little luck charm.”

A little luck may have been in play on Carlin’s homer, his first in the American League and just the second of his career, his last coming in 2008 at home-friendly Coors Field as a member of the Padres.

“They’re always a big deal for me,” Carlin said. “I don’t hit too many of them. They’re always a blessing when they come.”

Cleveland left fielder Trevor Crowe extended his hitting streak to 13 games with a single in his last at-bat in the eighth. It is the longest current streak in the majors.

The season series between the two Central Division rivals has seen a decided home-field advantage, the Indians going 6-1 at Progressive Field and 1-8 at Comerica Park.

Contact Chris Assenheimer at 329-7136 or cassenheimer@chroniclet.com.