Indians just can't solve Simon puzzle

Cleveland falls to 0-4 vs. Tigers' righty in 2015

Indians just can't solve Simon puzzle

DETROIT -- Jason Kipnis was at a loss for a good answer on Saturday night. The Indians second baseman has watched Tigers starter Alfredo Simon dominate the Tribe's lineup this season, but Kipnis and the rest of Cleveland's hitters seem perplexed by the pitcher's success.

"It seems like a guy we should hit," Kipnis said after the Indians' 6-0 defeat in Detroit. "But, you tip your cap to him in that respect and you move on."

For Simon, the Indians provided the elixir for a prolonged slump on the mound for the struggling Tigers. For the Tribe, the pitcher served as a thorn in the side in the team's waning attempt to move from the outskirts to the heart of the American League Wild Card chase.

The Indians -- now 6 games back of the second AL Wild Card spot -- did at least avoid history in their latest loss.

In the sixth inning, Michael Brantley pulled a pitch from Simon into the right-field corner for a two-out double, marking his AL-leading 42nd two-base hit of the season. It was only one of three hits on the night for Cleveland, but it snapped Simon's no-hit run at 20 batters. That was not much of a silver lining, though.

"Early on, even though he didn't give up hits, I thought, 'OK, second time through [we'll get to him],'" Indians manager Terry Francona said. "But, he got more comfortable and you could tell he got more confident and he started spinning that breaking ball. And once he started getting a feel for his breaking ball, he was really tough on us.

"He's done very well against us, and I'm sure confidence plays a part in it. While we certainly follow how guys are doing, guys with that kind of stuff, if they're commanding on that night, it doesn't matter what he did last week."

In his previous two starts, Simon had allowed 14 runs on 15 hits in only 9 1/3 innings. Over his past 13 outings, the big righty had a 7.84 ERA. Overall this season, Simon has gone 8-9 with a 5.48 ERA and a .273 opponents' average in 129 2/3 innings against teams other than the Indians. Against Cleveland, he is now 4-0 with a 1.50 ERA and a .217 opponents' average in 24 innings.

Simon joins Justin Verlander (2009) and Roger Clemens (1987) as the only pitchers in the past 30 years to have at least four wins, an ERA of 1.50 or better and at least 20 innings in one season against Cleveland.

"I know what they like to hit," Simon said. "And then I just throw back and forth, inside, outside, and just try to change the eyes. I already know them, because I've faced them a lot this year."

On Saturday, Simon held the Tribe to two hits, struck out five and worked around the potential harm of four walks in his seven scoreless nnings.

"You could say he was due for a good start, if you're looking at it like that," Kipnis said with a shrug. "I don't know. He's a good pitcher. He's had success before. He works off his fastball and then he gets his split and he gets ahead of guys. When he gets ahead of guys, you have to start swinging at more of his pitches instead of your pitches."

Jordan Bastian is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.