Righty picks up pace before 1-hour, 51-minute rain delay, earns seventh win
By Alejandro Zúñiga
DETROIT -- As the clouds began darkening the sky over Comerica Park and the rain sent 36,994 fans scurrying for cover in the concourse, right-hander Alfredo Simon began operating a little more quickly.
Nursing a 2-0 lead in the top of the fifth of Sunday's 8-1 win against Cleveland, the Tigers' starter struck out David Murphy and Yan Gomes, then allowed a single to Giovanny Urshela. But, as the precipitation intensified, Simon retired Michael Bourn on a fly ball to ensure an official game in case of a rainout.
"I started [to] be a little quick, because I know the rain is coming," Simon said.
Detroit didn't need any help from the weather, though, beating the Indians after a 1-hour, 51-minute delay. While the rain limited Simon's start to five innings, the righty maximized his time on the mound, striking out five while surrendering just three hits, all singles.
The 34-year-old has allowed three earned runs or fewer in 10 of 12 games this year.
"He's been probably our most consistent pitcher on a start-by-start basis," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus. "His split and changeup, the combo, really is the neutralizer for him. He gets a lot of foul balls, a lot of swings-and-misses. A lot of hitters out in front of those. I think that was the case again today."
Lately, Simon hadn't been quite as effective as Ausmus suggested. He had walked 12 batters over his four starts previous to Sunday's outing, a concerning struggle with control after issuing just 11 free passes over his first seven starts combined. But second baseman Jason Kipnis' walk in the fourth inning was the only one Simon permitted on Sunday.
Although Simon allowed the leadoff batter to get on base in three of the first four innings, he escaped the threat each time.
In the first, Kipnis reached on a single past a diving Ian Kinsler, but the Indians' second baseman was caught stealing to end the frame. Designated hitter David Murphy grounded into a 6-4-3 double play in the second, and Simon navigated around a Kipnis walk and an error in the fourth.
"I just feel great," Simon said. "All my pitches work really good right now, and, when I throw the ball down, everything work really good. I'm happy with the way I pitch right now."
It helped, too, that Detroit's bats came alive early. Kinsler had a first-inning RBI single, and, in the fourth, first baseman Miguel Cabrera launched another mammoth home run.
Simon is tied for third in the American League with seven wins, has a 2.58 ERA and boasts a 1.16 WHIP, and he believes himself to be approaching consideration for a second straight All-Star Game invitation.
"I think I have a chance to go again," he said. "My numbers [are] right there."
Alejandro Zúñiga is an associate reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @ByAZuniga. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.