Indians pounce on Verlander to claim opener

Indians pounce on Verlander to claim opener

CLEVELAND -- Francisco Lindor led a rejuvenated Indians offense on Tuesday night, collecting three hits and launching a three-run home run off Detroit's Justin Verlander to help Cleveland claim a 7-3 victory at Progressive Field.

"He has a chance to be so good," Indians manager Terry Francona said of Lindor, "because he can impact the game in so many different ways."

Cast your Esurance All-Star ballot for Lindor and other #ASGWorthy players

Lindor, who finished a triple shy of a cycle, helped pace a Cleveland attack that also received run-scoring hits from Mike Napoli, Yan Gomes and Michael Brantley. It all added up to seven runs allowed by Verlander, who logged five innings and ended with three walks and two strikeouts to slip to 2-3 on the year.

The outpouring by the Tribe offered sufficient support for right-hander Josh Tomlin, who turned in six solid innings en route to his fourth win of the season. Tomlin dodged the potential damage of nine hits, limiting the Tigers to a two-run home run off the bat of Ian Kinsler in the fifth inning. The righty struck out five and issued no walks in the win.

Tomlin fans five in win

The win came after Cleveland dropped five of six games to finish off its recent nine-game road trip.

"It was a tough week, but nobody gave up. Everybody worked hard," Lindor said. "Nobody was quitting, nobody was thinking like, 'Oh my God, we're not going to win the rest of the season.' That didn't go through any of our minds. We just came into today with the same energy, having fun."

The Lindor Show: Lindor showed off his defensive ability in the second inning, diving into the hole to snag a sharply hit grounder from Justin Upton. The shortstop gathered himself in the outfield grass and threw a perfect one-hopper to nab Upton at first for an eye-popping out. Lindor wasn't finished, though. He churned out three hits, scored three runs and belted his three-run homer off Verlander in the fifth to push the Tribe to a 7-2 lead.

Lindor's sensational stop

Cut4: Lindor can't help but smile after his defensive gem

"I was pretty surprised," Lindor said of his home run. "I didn't think it was going to go that far. I knew I got it. As soon as I hit it, I knew I got it, but I'm not a power hitter. I just try to get the barrel as fast as I can to the ball. If they go out, they go out." More >

Opening inning sets tone for Verlander: The Indians sapped 38 pitches out of Verlander in his opening inning. Twenty-eight of those were fastballs, including 12 consecutive pitches during the stretch that put Cleveland ahead. He threw five fastballs in a row to Napoli, the last of which Napoli sent over Anthony Gose's head in center field for a two-out, two-run double.

Napoli's two-run double

"I had to go to the gas pedal a little early in the game," Verlander said, "and I think that's something I need to work on. I think my offspeed stuff early in games, I'm throwing it for balls and falling behind guys. So that's kind of put me in a situation where I need to attack early in the game with the fastball, because I'm not throwing my offspeed stuff for strikes." More >

Verlander fields comebacker

The heart of it all: Brantley, Napoli and Gomes went a combined 5-for-54 (.093 average) in the previous six games, during which Cleveland went 1-5 between stops in Minnesota and Philadelphia. Against Detroit, that trio (hitting in the Nos. 4-6 spots) had three hits and four RBIs within the first three innings. Gomes followed Napoli's first-inning double with an RBI single, and Brantley added a run-scoring base hit off Verlander in the third.

Brantley's RBI single

"I thought we made Verlander work hard, and sometimes that's the best way to win," Francona said. "Just making the starter work so hard and get him out and get to the bullpen. If you can get to the bullpen with a lead, you have a chance to stay away from the guys that are trying to protect their lead."

Gomes' RBI single

Kinsler cuts lead: The Tigers struggled to advance runners against Tomlin until Kinsler saw a hanging breaking ball on his 2-2 pitch and sent it over the left-field fence for a two-run homer in the fifth, cutting Cleveland's lead in half. But Lindor's homer denied Verlander the shutdown inning the Tigers needed to carry that momentum forward.

"Our guys had just answered back, put up a couple runs. With this lineup, you keep our guys in the game and late in games we have a tendency to put runs on the board," Verlander said. "Obviously that was a huge turning point in the game. If I keep them off the board that inning, who knows what happens."

The Tigers thought they had a run in the first inning, when J.D. Martinez tagged up at third base on a flyout by Victor Martinez and was ruled safe after sprinting home. Tribe manager Terry Francona challenged the ruling, which was overturned after a replay review lasting one minute, 21 seconds. Replays showed Gomes receiving the relay from right fielder Marlon Byrd and applying the tag high on Martinez just before his foot touched the plate. The inning-ending, 9-2 double play erased a run off the board for Detroit.

Byrd throws out J.D. Martinez

"Home plate's the one base, so to speak, that's flush with the ground. And when you slide in with cleats, it's sometimes hard to actually hit it," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "And if you hit the dirt right in front of it, you pop up. And I think that's what happened with J.D. It was a good play to go. He would've been safe if he had hit it."

"I thought he was safe at the plate," Francona said. "But, Barney [Indians replay coordinator Mike Barnett] said [J.D. Martinez] lifted his foot up and didn't touch the plate, so that takes a run off the board."

"He's so strong. He hits that ball and we score our first two to get us going. He has a knack for doing that, and he's so into the game that sometimes you just live with the swing and miss, because you know he's going to come through." -- Francona, on Napoli's two-run double in the first

Francona on 7-3 win over Tigers

Tigers: Anibal Sanchez (3-2, 6.08 ERA) takes the mound in Wednesday's middle game of the series at 6:10 p.m. ET, trying to build off recent mechanical adjustments after seven walks and nine strikeouts over 5 2/3 innings of three-hit ball against the A's. Sanchez revived the hip turn in his delivery before that start after struggling without it, but he continues to try to find a consistent comfort zone.

Indians: Right-hander Corey Kluber (1-3, 4.24 ERA) is slated to face Sanchez. Kluber, who struck out 10 in a win over Detroit on April 23, has 16 strikeouts against no walks with three runs allowed in his past two outings (15 innings).

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Jordan Bastian has covered the Indians for since 2011, and previously covered the Blue Jays from 2006-10. Read his blog, Major League Bastian, follow him on Twitter @MLBastian and listen to his podcast.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.