CLEVELAND — The Cleveland Indians scored multiple runs in their first two trips to the plate against the Detroit Tigers at Progressive Field Saturday, and first baseman Yonder Alonso made sure it was three straight innings with a crooked number going up on the board.
With a slight uppercut to his swing, Alonso took a 1-0 four-seam fastball from Detroit reliever Sandy Baez deep to right field and over wall for a two-run home run that gave the Indians a 13-0 lead over the Tigers after the third inning of play.
Designated hitter Edwin Encarnacion scored on the home run after drawing a lead-off walk for the Indians.
The home run was Alonso’s 23rd on the season and 12th in front of the home fans at Progressive Field in his first year with the Indians.
Alonso’s round-tripper was the Indians’ third of the day, as shortstop Francisco Lindor and left fielder Michael Brantley led off the bottom of the first inning with back-to-back solo home runs over the wall in right field.
Cleveland — These are the types of emotional episodes Victor Martinez has been trying to avoid as his 16-year career winds down.
The Cleveland Indians, the organization that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela and brought him to the big leagues in 2002, honored his career, especially the eight seasons he spent with the Indians, in a pregame ceremony Saturday.
“It definitely means a lot,” Martinez said before the game. “We had some good years here and I played with some good teammates — CC (Sabathia), Cliff Lee, Travis Hafner, so many. I remember 2007, we were one game away from the World Series and we couldn’t win one more game.
“But this is the organization that gave me a chance to become a professional baseball player and brought me to the big leagues. It will always be remembered. Like my mom said, ‘We will always have the Indians in our heart.’”
Martinez was a three-time All-Star with the Indians. He won one of his two Silver Slugger awards there. He hit .297 with a .369 on-base percentage and .463 slugging percentage in those eight seasons. He had an OPS-plus of 120, hitting 103 home runs and knocking in 518 runs.
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It was a jolt when he was traded to Boston in the middle of the 2009 season. His manager there, current Indians skipper Terry Francona.
“He’s one of the nicest guys in the game,” Francona said. “One of the most professional hitters and greatest teammates you could want. You could pretty much write anything good and put my name next to it, because that’s how I feel.”
Martinez hit .313 and made another All-Start team in his season and a half in Boston, before he signed with the Tigers — where he’d go on to inflict a lot of damage to Francona’s teams in Cleveland.
“He is one of the best switch-hitters you’ll ever see,” Francona said. “There were sometimes when it looked like he was playing softball. He’d go through those periods where he was just so locked in. When you were with him, it was great.
“When you were against him, it was a bad feeling.”
Francona called Martinez the “perfect hitter” to bat after Miguel Cabrera in a lineup.
“Nobody wanted to pitch to Miggy,” he said. “But if you didn’t, Victor was going to hurt you. It didn’t matter if it was right-handed or left-handed.”
Martinez got two hits and an RBI on Friday night, adding on to the extensive damage he’s done over the years at Progressive Field. Martinez has hit .296 at Progressive in his career. His 289 RBIs rank second among active players, his 499 hits rank third.
Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire has witnessed Martinez do similar damage to his Twins teams at Target Field.
“He’s one of the reasons I’m working for the Detroit Tigers instead of the old team I used to work with,” he joked. “Because when he was here (with the Indians), he killed us. We couldn’t get him out. And when he was with Detroit, he killed us there, too.
“He’s been a great hitter and I am just glad to have him on my side and get to manage the guy at the end of his career, getting to know him. We are all really happy for him. He’s a class act.”
Martinez was doing his level best to stay on his routine Saturday. He did his cage work. He took batting practice on the field. He did his film study. But this wasn’t a normal game for him.
“I just thank God that at this age I am still playing,” he said. “I know I can go home and say I gave everything I had to this game.”
The Indians wrapped up the AL Central division with a 15-0 win over the Tigers on Saturday, marking their third consecutive division title since 2016. Mike Clevinger earned his 12th win of the season, turning in six innings of one-hit, five-strikeout ball as Cleveland’s offense worked their way to double digits on the scoreboard.
At the plate, Francisco Lindor and Michael Brantley kicked off an explosive first inning with back-to-back home runs. The two homers were enough to retire Tigers starter Michael Fulmer, who made a hasty exit from the mound after sustaining a bout of right knee inflammation. His replacement, lefty reliever Matt Hall, fared little better: by the end of the first inning, Edwin Encarnacion, Yandy Diaz, and Jason Kipnis had all scored on a combination of fielding errors and productive outs, while Roberto Perez topped the team’s six-run spread with an RBI single.
The Indians didn’t stop there. They overwhelmed the Tigers’ bullpen again in the second inning, returning with another five runs on Jose Ramirez’s RBI double, a pair of RBI hits from Encarnacion and Melky Cabrera, a bases-loaded hit-by-pitch, and Perez’s sac fly to gain an 11-0 advantage over Detroit.
All told, the Tigers cycled through seven pitchers in an attempt to stymie the Indians’ efforts. They didn’t catch a break until the fifth inning, by which point the Indians had already amassed 15 runs following Yonder Alonso‘s two-run homer and a run-scoring triple from Ramirez and single from Encarnacion. (Encarnacion, it should be said, made it through just four innings before departing with a right ankle sprain.) It was the largest run deficit the Tigers had seen all year, and the most runs they’d allowed since they weathered a 15-8 loss to the Twins in August.
Though the Indians secured the AL Central title in decisive fashion this weekend, each of the other five divisions have yet to see a clear winner emerge. The Red Sox currently lead the AL East with a league-best 101-47 record, while the Astros hold a narrow 2.5-game lead over the Athletics in the AL West, the Braves look like the favorites to wrap up the NL East, the Cubs continue to outpace the Brewers in the NL Central, and the Dodgers and Rockies remain tied in the NL West.
Donaldson went 2-for-4 with a solo home run in Friday’s 5-4 loss to the Tigers.
Donaldson went deep in the sixth inning to tie the ballgame 2-2, but the Tigers would pull ahead in the seventh and bring home the victory. Since being traded from the Blue Jays to the Indians on Aug. 31, the 32-year-old has gone 2-for-9 with two strikeouts and a home run. He figures to see scheduled days off down the stretch of the regular season in order to get him back into game shape.
Boyd did not factor into the decision in Friday’s 5-4 win over the Indians, as he allowed two runs on three hits and two walks over 5.1 innings. He struck out seven.
Boyd kept Cleveland off the board through five innings and was in line for the win before he allowed back-to-back home runs to Edwin Encarnacion and Josh Donaldson with one out in the sixth to tie the game at 2-2. Despite sputtering at the end, it was still a solid outing for Boyd, and the lefty has now allowed just three earned runs with 18 strikeouts over his last two starts (12.1 innings). He’ll look to keep it rolling his next time out Wednesday against the Twins.