CLEVELAND -- Indians manager Terry Francona recently said starting pitcher Mike Clevinger was nearing the point where the team could take his seat belt off, a nod to his ramping up his volume following a back strain that robbed him of much of this 2019 season.
Wednesday night might have been the point in which Clevinger finally unclicked his belt and hit 100 mph again, as he dazzled in his six innings of work to lead the Indians to a 7-2 win over the Detroit Tigers Wednesday night at Progressive Field.
And, with the Minnesota Twins falling, 14-4, to the New York Mets Wednesday afternoon, the win pulled the Indians to within 4 games of the Twins in the American League Central race. It's the closest the Indians have been to the red-hot Twins since they were 4 games back on May 14. The Indians have now shaved off 7 1/2 games off the Twins' lead since June 2.
Clevinger threw exactly 100 pitches, the first time he's reached that mark since returning from the injured list, and struck out 12 batters to tie a career high while allowing one run on six hits. Clevinger's first six outs all came via the strikeout.
The Indians (54-40) took a two-run lead in the third inning against Tigers starting pitcher Spencer Turnbull and never trailed. Mike Freeman, starting at shortstop to allow Francisco Lindor to act as the designated hitter, and Tyler Naquin each singled before Lindor walked to load the bases. Oscar Mercado, having a resurgence as of late following a swing adjustment on Monday, singled up the middle to bring home two runs.
The Indians took a 3-1 lead into the top of the eighth until Nicholas Castellanos, who will have his name thrown around in trade rumors all month, homered to right field off Nick Wittgren to pull the Tigers (29-62) to within one run, 3-2.
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Lindor answered Castellanos' home run in the bottom half of the eighth with a solo shot of his own off Tigers reliever Joe Jimenez, marking his 15th homer of the season. And from there, the Indians poured it on against the Tigers' bullpen to leave no doubt.
Carlos Santana doubled off the wall in right field and scored on Jason Kipnis' single, pushing the Indians' lead to 5-2. After a Jose Ramirez single, Greg Allen came on to pitch hit against Zac Reininger and came through with a two-run double to the gap in right-center to push the Indians' lead to 7-2.
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