DETROIT (AP) — Zach Plesac pitched impressively into the eighth inning, and Brad Hand worked out of a jam in the ninth to send the Cleveland Indians to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers on Friday night.
Francisco Lindor drove in the game’s only run with a fifth-inning sacrifice fly, and Plesac (4-2) rebounded after allowing a season-high five runs at Minnesota in his previous outing. The right-hander yielded five hits in 7 2/3 innings, lowering his ERA to 1.85. He struck out 11 with one walk.
James Karinchak struck out Miguel Cabrera with two on to end the eighth. Hand allowed a one-out triple by Daz Cameron — the rookie was 1 for 27 in his career to that point — but struck out Jorge Bonifacio and Niko Goodrum to end it. It was Hand’s 13th save in 13 chances.
Plesac is now close to teammate Shane Bieber’s American League-leading ERA of 1.74, although Plesac doesn’t have enough innings to qualify yet.
In the second, Plesac accomplished a rare “immaculate inning” when he struck out the side on nine pitches.
“His tempo’s much better. His command is much better,” interim manager Sandy Alomar Jr. said. “Kind of simplified his mechanics. Last year was a little bit of a struggle with the way he set his glove — I felt like he was tipping his pitches.”
While Plesac was keeping the Detroit bats quiet, Cleveland struggled to back him up. José Ramírez was caught attempting a straight steal of home for the third out of the fourth. That got Tigers reliever Tyler Alexander (2-2) out of a bases-loaded jam.
“My first reaction was thank you,” Alexander said. “I don’t want to say it was dumb, but it just didn’t seem like the right time to do it. … I definitely needed a little bit of help there, I think. I wish I could have carried that energy into my next inning.”
With one out in the fifth, Delino DeShields tripled to center — outfielder Victor Reyes was unable to cut the ball off and it went for three bases. Lindor lifted a flyball to center, and DeShields scored.
Cleveland has won two in a row after an eight-game losing streak. The Indians are still in solid shape to make the postseason, and Plesac matched his career high for strikeouts Friday. This also matched his longest outing of the season.
“If I get to pitch in a playoff game, I’ll be fired up,” he said. “I’ll be ready to go.”
Detroit starter Michael Fulmer pitched three scoreless innings in the type of sharp performance he’s had a hard time providing this year after returning from Tommy John surgery.
“Fulmer did great,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. “That’s the best three innings that he’s had.”
The Tigers have lost six of seven.
Tigers: C Austin Romine left in the ninth inning with what Gardenhire said was a left wrist contusion. … UTIL Harold Castro (left hamstring strain) was reinstated from the injured list. He went 1 for 3 but was replaced defensively in the eighth.
Spencer Turnbull (4-3) takes the mound for the Tigers on Saturday night against Cleveland’s Triston McKenzie (2-1). Turnbull is 0-6 with a 5.55 ERA in his career against the Indians.
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