CLEVELAND -- After all the criticism of the Indians' defensive deficiencies this season, being the beneficiaries had to feel sweet.
One Detroit Tigers' error, another ugly play on a run-scoring bloop single and the strong pitching of right-hander Danny Salazar helped the Indians claim a crucial 7-0 victory over their Central Division rivals Wednesday night before a crowd of 11,739 at Progressive Field.
The Tigers had taken the first two games of the series, rallying Tuesday on a three-run homer in the ninth, a blow to the Indians' playoff hopes.
The game began just like the night before when Carlos Santana hit a two-run homer in the first inning to give the Indians a 2-0 lead. This time it came off right-hander Justin Verlander (12-12) as Santana sent a 2-0 pitch over the right-field fence for his 24th home run of the season.
But even with Salazar shutting out the powerful Tigers' lineup over a career-high nine innings, the Indians know two runs are not enough. Their record this season is 18-49 when they score three or fewer.
The Tigers helped them get over that hump in the fourth inning.
With one out, Verlander walked Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall followed with a RBI double into the right-field corner that scored a sliding Kipnis. Torii Hunter's throw bounced off second baseman Ian Kinsler's glove for an error, allowing Chisenhall to go to third.
Yan Gomes made the Tigers pay when he sent a blooper over first base. With Kinsler also in the area, the ball ticked off the glove of first baseman Victor Martinez as Chisenhall came home.
The Indians tacked on three runs in the seventh on Michael Bourn's RBI single to center and Jose Ramirez's run-scoring double to center. That finished Verlander, who fell to 9-12 with a 5.35 ERA at Progressive Field. Michael Brantley greeted left-hander Pat McCoy with a run-scoring single to right.
Salazar allowed eight hits and struck out nine in his first career complete-game shutout. He notched his first career victory over the Tigers in four starts, including a 4 2/3-inning effort in his lone appearance against them this year when he allowed five runs on six hits in April.
The Tigers' 3-4-5 hitters of Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D Martinez went 3-for-10 against Salazar with five strikeouts.
Salazar continued his strong second half. He improved to 5-2 in eight starts since the All-Star break.
In his past four outings, Salazar has looked more like the pitcher who started for the Indians in last year's wild-card game. In that span, he's allowed just three earned runs.
The Indians committed their 107th error of the season in the fourth inning, when Zach Walters failed to field Victor Martinez's single to right field cleanly, allowing Martinez to go to second and Miguel Cabrera to advance to third. But Salazar escaped trouble by striking out J.D. Martinez, the Tigers' hero Tuesday, and getting Nick Castellanos to ground out.
The only position player on the current Tribe roster without an error is outfielder Tyler Holt.
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