Tribe extends dominance of Tigers in opener

Tribe extends dominance of Tigers in opener

CLEVELAND -- Indians first baseman Mike Napoli lingered for a moment as he watched the ball soar over the towering wall in left field. His 17th home run of the season broke a seventh-inning deadlock with the Tigers and was the decisive blow in the 5-3 victory.

Monday's win in front of a sold-out crowd at Progressive Field was Cleveland's 12th straight victory at home. It also moved the Tribe to a 10-0 mark this season against the Tigers.

Detroit homered twice in the loss. Outfielder Steven Moya took Danny Salazar deep with a leadoff shot in the fifth inning, then third baseman Nick Castellanos went yard on a two-run homer in the sixth to knot the score at 3. But it was Napoli's blast that proved to be the difference. Per Statcast™, the ball traveled an estimated 430 feet at 109 mph.

"It's nice, because he's done that so many times," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "We don't live by the home run a ton, but when he's up, I mean, that's why he's here. We certainly try not to run into outs, because we like to get to him and let him take three good swings."

Neither starter factored into the decision. Salazar, the American League Pitcher of the Month for June, has gotten off to a shaky start in July. For the first time all season, he surrendered multiple home runs, and he was chased after 5 2/3 innings after allowing three runs and a season-high eight hits.

Tigers left-hander Daniel Norris exited after just two innings of two-run ball due to a strained right oblique. As a result, Detroit went to its bullpen much earlier than anticipated, allowing Dustin Molleken -- a former Indians Minor Leaguer -- to make his Major League debut. Molleken also went two innings, giving up one run on three hits. Detroit used five pitchers in the game.

"Guys battled," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. "I thought we hit some balls hard tonight. They made some nice plays. The guys were into the game. They were into it and they were focused, down to the last out."

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Strained oblique knocks out Norris: Norris battled his way out of a jam in the second inning with one run allowed, but it might have come at a price when he made a lunging attempt at Abraham Almonte's chopper up the middle. Jose Iglesias fielded the ball for the out, but Norris strained his right oblique on the attempt and left after issuing a leadoff walk in the third inning. More >

Norris leaves with an injury

Change of pace: Prior to Monday night, Salazar allowed 0.58 home runs per nine innings (second-lowest among AL starters) and had not given up a long ball on his changeup since Aug. 17 of last season. The Tigers not only hit two home runs off him, but both of them (Moya's leadoff shot in the fifth and Castellanos' two-run blast in the sixth) came against that signature split-change.

Salazar said he was elevating the changeup more than usual.

"Sometimes I was trying to throw it down," Salazar said. "Even when I struck out Victor Martinez [in the fourth inning], I was trying to throw the pitch down. I was just leaving it up for a strike the whole time."

Salazar strikes out the side

Early work: Cleveland has scored first in nine of the 10 meetings with Detroit and outscored the Tigers, 25-1, in the first three frames combined this season. On Monday the Tribe scored a pair of early runs, on an RBI base knock from Carlos Santana in the second and a sacrifice fly from Francisco Lindor in the third. However, the Indians squandered a chance to break open the game early by leaving four runners stranded, including three in scoring position in the first three innings.

Lindor's sacrifice fly

Double plays erase threats: The Tigers had a chance to rally again in the eighth, putting two on with nobody out. Castellanos hit a sharp ground ball up the middle, but Jason Kipnis ranged to his right and shoveled the ball quickly to Lindor at second, starting a double play that took the potential tying run off the basepaths and negated the most dangerous hitter the Tigers have had against Cleveland this season.

"It's unfortunate," Castellanos said. "If that ball's another foot, half-foot up the middle, maybe we have bases loaded, or Miggy scores and me and Miggy are on first and second with no outs. That could have been a turning point in the ballgame, too."

Tribe turns a double play

QUOTABLE
"It's a good time to be in Cleveland right now. We got to be here for the [Cavaliers'] parade and when they clinched. It was exciting to see the fans out there really excited about it. Hopefully, it keeps up, because it definitely helps us out to be able to play in front of a lot of fans, just the adrenaline being out there." -- Napoli, on Cleveland's recent success at home

"Everybody tomorrow is going to hit their opposite hand. Maybe that would work. ... It's baseball. We could come out and beat the Indians by 10 runs tomorrow. It could happen. We could beat the Indians the rest of the season. It's just one of those things." -- Castellanos, on the Tigers' lack of success against the Indians

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Alex Wilson retired the Indians in order on just three pitches in the sixth inning. According to STATS, he became the first pitcher to do that since Tommy Hunter retired the Rays in order on three pitches in the ninth inning on June 29, 2014. Though Giants pitcher Cory Gearrin had the last three-pitch inning, on April 15 of this year against the Dodgers, he entered the game with runners on base and recorded a double play.

Wilson's three-pitch 6th inning

UPON FURTHER REVIEW
The final out of the came courtesy of a challenge. Iglesias was initially ruled safe on a fielder's choice on a chopper to second base. Francona elected to review the play, the call was overturned and Iglesias was ruled out on a 4-6-3 double play to end the game. The review took approximately two minutes and seven seconds.

"I didn't even wait, because we didn't have anything to lose," Francona said. "From what I saw on the board, it looked like he was out. I was glad they overturned it, because [Ian Kinsler was up next]. I feel a lot better about our chances to win if he doesn't get a chance to hit."

Said Ausmus: "They did have a super-slo-mo that came down after the game, and I still am unsure that Napoli had the ball before Iglesias was on the base. So for me it was not conclusive evidence, but maybe they saw something I didn't, or have better eyes."

Allen earns the save

WHAT'S NEXT
Tigers: Anibal Sanchez gets the short-notice starting assignment on Tuesday night in the middle game of the three-game series, filling in for the injured Jordan Zimmermann after Zimmermann was placed on the 15-day disabled list on Monday night. Sanchez gave up two homers and four runs over five innings against the Indians in his last start, on June 25 at Comerica Park.

Indians: Right-hander Carlos Carrasco will make his 11th start on Tuesday. In his last three starts, he has allowed a combined three runs on 12 hits across 23 2/3 innings. He is 5-6 with a 5.25 ERA in 17 appearances (12 starts) against the Tigers in his career.

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Shane Jackson is a reporter for MLB.com based in Cleveland.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com 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.