Indians' 'pen makes history after key injury

Indians' 'pen makes history after key injury

CLEVELAND -- The Tigers got a taste of the resiliency that has defined the Indians throughout this season on Saturday. Detroit ace Justin Verlander flirted with a no-hitter, but a Cleveland bullpen unexpectedly pressed into duty, following an injury to Carlos Carrasco, kept pace.

In a 1-0 walk-off win in 10 innings over Detroit, eight Tribe relievers combined for 10 scoreless innings and Jose Ramirez celebrated his birthday by delivering the decisive blow in the bottom of the 10th. With one out and the bases loaded, Ramirez sent a pitch from lefty Justin Wilson up the middle and into center, scoring the winning run and setting off an on-field mob.

According to Elias Sports Bureau, the Indians' nine pitchers used to shut out Detroit are the most used by any Major League team in a complete-game shutout effort, dating back to 1876.

"Carrasco aside, that was a fun game to be a part of," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "There was so much good baseball going on, so much good pitching. Guys just continuing to put up zeros. Our bullpen, Verlander, there was a lot of good pitching going on."

Francona on walk-off win

The win improved Cleveland's record to 13-1 this season against Detroit, which now faces an eight-game deficit in the American League Central with 14 games left on the regular-season slate. The Indians' magic number for clinching the division title was trimmed to seven, while the Tigers remained three games back of the second AL Wild Card after both Toronto and Baltimore also lost Saturday.

The Indians, who have been dealt with injuries to Michael Brantley, Yan Gomes and Danny Salazar already this year, lost Carrasco on Saturday before he could even record an out. The starter was struck on the right hand by a line drive from Ian Kinsler and fractured a bone in his pitching hand.

"Right when it happened,"Francona said, "I called [bullpen coach Jason Bere] down there and said, 'Tell them to put their seat belts on, because they're all going to pitch and we're going to win.'"

Verlander's bid for a third career no-hitter ended in the sixth inning, when Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis shot a pitch back up the middle for a no-doubt leadoff single. That ended an 0-for-14 start to the night for Cleveland, but Detroit's ace buckled down, retired the side and continued on with his dominant performance.

Kipnis ends no-hit bid

That was the lone hit allowed by Verlander in seven scoreless innings, in which he struck out seven and dodged the potential harm of four walks. It marked his longest scoreless effort since May 24, when Verlander blanked the Phillies for eight innings in Detroit.

"It felt good to pitch [well] against them, yeah," Verlander said. "But we lost, so ... it still [stinks]."

Carrasco exits: Two pitches into Saturday's game, Kinsler sent a sharp line drive back up the middle and off Carrasco's right hand. The pitcher was in clear pain and was removed from the contest. The Indians announced that Carrasco sustained a non-displaced fracture of his fifth metacarpal, which is a bone in the hand located beneath the pinky finger, and is done for the season. That setback initiated an unexpected bullpen day for the Tribe.

Carrasco exits with injury

"It hurts," Francona said. "It will make this more challenging, what we're trying to do. When we do it, it will feel all that much better. It's another challenge, but we feel like we'll figure it out." More >

When in doubt, fastball: Verlander hadn't walked more than two batters in a game since July 7, but he walked four of the first 12 Indians he faced -- two each in the second and third innings -- as he struggled to command his fastball. Both times, he escaped with help from strikeouts, firing three fastballs by Tyler Naquin with runners at second and third and one out in the second inning, then fanning Mike Napoli on a slider in the third.

Verlander's dazzling outing

"Obviously, I never want to walk four guys," Verlander said, "but I was able to rein it in when I needed to." More >

Sixth-inning escape: Kipnis, who made a diving catch in the second to rob Andrew Romine of a hit, came through again with his glove in the sixth. With one out and a runner on third, Kipnis ran down a fly ball from Cameron Maybin in shallow right. Kipnis made a running, over-the-shoulder basket catch, then spun and fired the ball back to the infield to keep Jose Iglesias at third. Reliever Perci Garner followed with an intentional walk to Miguel Cabrera and a strikeout against Victor Martinez to escape the threat.

Kipnis' over-the-shoulder catch

"That's the downside of playing in sometimes, those bloops that can drop," Kipnis said. "I knew it was going to be in no-man's land, and I didn't want to alligator arm it, so I reached out. There was one out, so my guess was, as a runner, he was probably off the bag a little bit, halfway. So I knew we had a good chance to hold them once I caught it."

Verlander gives way to bullpen: Though Verlander settled down to retire 13 of the final 14 batters he faced, ending the seventh inning at 106 pitches, manager Brad Ausmus went to his bullpen in the eighth. The move looked like it could haunt him once Kipnis' ground-rule double put runners at second and third with one out, but Alex Wilson fanned Francisco Lindor before recovering from a 2-0 count to strike out Napoli.

A. Wilson wiggles out of trouble

"I think our guys have done a much better job with a fresh inning, and Brad's probably not going to let me ride it out there 'til 130 [pitches], so we were ready to get a guy out there to start a new inning," Verlander said. "And it worked out. Our guys did a good job. Unfortunately, one run was all they needed."

"You can let something like that linger. You can let something like that deflate a team. You have Verlander on the mound, their ace. It's Detroit. There are a lot of excuses that could have come into play, but I thought everyone did a great job." -- Kipnis, on overcoming the Carrasco injury

"It's definitely frustrating. When they have to use the bullpen since the beginning of the game and we're not able to score a single run, it's bad. What can I say?" -- Martinez

Rajai Davis entered the game as a pinch-runner in the ninth inning and stole a pair of bases, giving him an even 40 on the season. Davis is the first Indians player to have at least 40 thefts in one year since 1999, when Omar Vizquel had 42. Davis is the first Major League player age 35 or older with at least 40 in a season since 2011 (Ichiro Suzuki, 40).

In the sixth inning, Iglesias was hit by a pitch from Garner to begin the frame, and then the Tigers' shortstop stole second base. Cleveland challenged the safe call on the steal, but the ruling stood after a replay review lasting one minute and 13 seconds. Detroit was unable to capitalize, as Garner avoided any damage in the inning.

Iglesias steals second

Tigers: Daniel Norris (2-2, 3.81 ERA) will try to keep the Tigers' postseason hopes alive when he takes the mound to start Sunday's series finale in a 1:10 p.m. ET matchup at Progressive Field. The 23-year-old lefty has tossed back-to-back quality starts, including 6 1/3 innings with 11 strikeouts Monday against Minnesota, with no wins to show for it. He has two starts against the Indians, but five innings total.

Indians: Right-hander Trevor Bauer (11-7, 4.06 ERA) is scheduled to take the ball on Sunday for the finale of this three-game set with Detroit. Bauer has not started against the Tigers since May 5, when he gave up three runs in 5 2/3 innings en route to a win. The righty has been charged with 11 runs on 13 hits in his past 10 1/3 innings (two starts).

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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.