DETROIT -- The up-and-down second half for Alfredo Simon took a decided upswing Saturday night with seven scoreless innings on two hits, allowing an early Detroit surge off Cleveland starter Danny Salazar to stand for a 6-0 Tigers win over the Indians at Comerica Park.
Detroit's third win in its last 15 games cooled off a Cleveland squad that had won seven of nine to reach the fringes of the American League Wild Card race. The loss dropped the Indians to 6 games behind the Rangers, who won Saturday, for the second Wild Card spot.
The Tigers' struggles over the last couple weeks centered around starting pitching, including Simon, who had given up 14 runs on 15 hits over 9 1/3 innings since throwing a one-hitter against the Rangers Aug. 20. He had his flaws Saturday, walking four batters, but he took a no-hit bid into the sixth inning before Michael Brantley's two-out double into the right-field corner. Simon (12-9) improved to 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA against Cleveland this season. He's 8-9 with a 5.48 ERA against all other opponents.
Salazar (12-8), by contrast, fell to 1-3 against Detroit this season with his shortest outing of the year, allowing six runs on eight hits over 3 2/3 innings. Half the runs came in on home runs from J.D. Martinez and Tyler Collins.
"I thought he made a lot of mistakes," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Salazar. "It just seemed like he didn't have real good offspeed tonight like normally, and he just left some pitches that were real hittable and they left the ballpark."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Rajai robs Sands: The Indians looked to have the makings of a rally when Jerry Sands, who homered and tripled on Friday night, sent a line drive over left-center field in the fourth inning Saturday. Tigers center fielder Rajai Davis tracked down the ball on a dead sprint, reeling it in with an impressive dive that ended the inning, robbing Sands of a potential RBI extra-base hit. More >
Brantley averts history: Simon cruised through the first 20 batters he faced without allowing a hit, but Brantley brought an end to the pitcher's bid at history with two outs in the sixth. Cleveland's left fielder pulled a pitch into right field for his American League-leading 42nd double of the season, giving the Tribe its first hit of the evening.
"I was 2-0 and I just throw a split for a strike and he got a good swing," Simon said. "After that I just tried to focus and get the out."
Just Due: Not only had J.D. Martinez not driven in a run since taking over the cleanup spot in the Tigers order last Sunday, he hadn't homered since Aug. 26. He broke both droughts when he sent a full-count fastball from Salazar deep to right for his 35th home run of the year.
Soto's swift debut: In the fifth inning, the Indians handed the ball to rookie lefty Giovanni Soto for his Major League debut. Soto proceeded to induce a one-pitch groundout off the bat of Collins to end the frame. The young lefty became the first Cleveland reliever since 1991 (Garland Kiser) to have a one-pitch, one-out MLB debut.
"He looked tired, so we got him out," Francona quipped. "We wanted to get him in there. We don't want guys who never have been here to sit forever. I was glad we could get him in there."
"He's got that good split-change that he's had success with on us. He gets you to chase his pitch. Other than that, I don't know. I don't have an answer. It seems like a guy we should hit. But, you tip your cap to him in that respect and you move on." --Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis, on Cleveland's struggles vs. Simon
"It's really frustrating. You want to throw the ball down. You want to get the out. Then, you start to get behind in the count and you have to throw a strike. When you get behind in the count , they know you have to come back into the middle." --Salazar
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Over the past 30 years, only three pitchers have had at least four wins, an ERA of 1.50 or better and at least 20 innings in one season against the Indians. Simon (this season), fellow Tigers starter Justin Verlander (2009) and Roger Clemens (1987 with the Red Sox) are on that short list. More >
WHAT'S NEXT Indians: Rookie right-hander Cody Anderson (2-3, 4.17 ERA) is slated to take the ball for the Tribe in a 1:08 p.m. ET tilt against the Tigers on Sunday at Comerica Park. On Tuesday in Toronto, the big righty held the Blue Jays to two runs over six innings. Anderson has a 7.71 ERA in six starts since opening his Major League career with a 0.89 ERA in his first four outings.
Tigers: Verlander, 2-2 with a 0.76 ERA over his last five starts, will try to continue his stinginess against the Tribe Sunday afternoon. It'll mark his first outing against Cleveland since returning from the disabled list with five innings of two-run ball against the Tribe June 13.