April 23, 2014

Medina
Cloudy
38°F

Indians just May be for real: New month brings same clutch play, winning result

CLEVELAND – It’s a new month but nothing has changed for the Indians. They’re still winning.

After completing the franchise’s most successful opening month of the season, the Indians kept their winning ways rolling Sunday, kicking off May with a 5-4 victory over the Tigers at Progressive Field.

The win, Cleveland’s 13th straight at home and sixth consecutive overall, completed a three-game sweep of Detroit, leaving the Indians with a 41⁄2-game lead in the Central Division standings and the best record in the American League (19-8).

After a victory over the Tigers on Saturday, Cleveland closer Chris Perez said the Indians’ fast start was better than the movie “Major League.” He was asked Sunday if he still felt the same way.

“For sure,” Perez said. “They didn’t start winning until the second half, if I remember the movie correctly.

“I don’t think anybody could have seen this coming.”

Cleveland’s surprising start was extended by another surprising win over the Tigers, the Indians rallying from a 2-0 deficit for the third straight day.

Detroit scored twice in the opening inning off Justin Masterson, with the Indians tying it in the bottom of the second and rallying for three runs in the eighth to win it.

Masterson was bidding to start the season 6-0 in his first six starts but left without a decision after allowing three runs (two earned) on seven hits and a pair of walks.

Had he won, Masterson would have been Cleveland’s first right-hander to win his first six starts since Jim Bagby and Stan Coveleski in 1920. As it stands, Masterson is the first righty to win his first five starts since Bob Lemon in 1955.

After allowing the two runs in the first, Masterson got out of a bases-loaded jam in the second and didn’t allow another run until running out of gas in the eighth inning after throwing a whopping 120 pitches.

“Masterson gave us what we needed,” manager Manny Acta said. “He dialed it up after that second inning.”

“I just kept going with what I had,” Masterson said.

Masterson (5-0, 2.25 ERA) was involved in a bit of controversy after he hit Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera with a pitch in the eighth inning with a runner on first and no outs.

Both benches had already been warned after Detroit starter Phil Coke hit Michael Brantley in the fourth and Masterson returned fire at Ramon Santiago in the fifth. Cabrera was not happy, mouthing an expletive at Masterson as he made his way to first. Shelley Duncan was hit by Joaquin Benoit in Cleveland’s decisive eighth inning.

“It was definitely just a sinker that went in a little bit, unfortunately,” Masterson said of the pitch that hit Cabrera in the left thigh. “I would have rather got the double play.”

The Tigers forged ahead with a run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly from Alex Avila before the Indians came back again.

For the second straight day, the rally came against the beleaguered Benoit, who sports an 8.18 ERA in 13 appearances.

Shin-Soo Choo started the inning with a hit then moved to second after Duncan was hit, scoring the tying run on a one-out single from Orlando Cabrera. The Indians went ahead for good when Michael Brantley followed with a single to left-center.

Matt LaPorta’s sacrifice fly scored Cabrera to provide the final count.

“I’m just going to keep saying it, we’re resilient,” said LaPorta, whose two-run double scored the Indians’ first runs. “We’re keeping pressure on every team we play.”

“Our offense, I can’t say enough about it,” Acta said. “They never give up.”

And they keep on winning.

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

NEXT UP

• WHO: Cleveland at Oakland
• WHEN: Tuesday, 10:05 p.m.
• WHERE: Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum, Oakland, Calif.
• PITCHERS: Carmona (2-3, 5.15 ERA) vs. Ross (1-2, 2.76)
• TV/RADIO: SportsTime Ohio; WEOL 930-AM, WTAM 1100-AM