CLEVELAND -- The Indians overpowered the Tigers throughout last season en route to the American League Central crown. In a 7-6 victory over Cleveland on Friday night, Miguel Cabrera broke free of his early-season slump, and Detroit held off a late Tribe rally.
Cabrera entered the evening with a .133 average, but finished 2-for-3 with a three-run home run, a single and two walks. The Detroit slugger also jawed with the Indians' bench in the first inning during his plate appearance against Indians starter Trevor Bauer, who allowed six runs in five-plus innings. Cabrera and Alex Avila both homered off the Tribe right-hander.
Left-hander Daniel Norris was strong over six shutout frames against the Indians, striking out five and dodging the potential harm of four walks. Following Norris' exit, Cleveland struck for six runs against the Tigers' bullpen. The Indians plated five in the ninth, which was highlighted by a two-out, pinch-hit grand slam by Lonnie Chisenhall.
Chisenhall hoped the ninth-inning rally could help jump-start the Indians, who have gone 5-for-41 (.122 average) with runners in scoring position over the past four games.
It happened a lot last year," Chisenhall said. "I think we'd scuffle a little bit in April and then a few of those games where we're fighting back, that rolls over. The passion, the fight, the on-base ability, it carried to the next game. So, we'll see what's going to happen tomorrow."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Miggy torments Tribe: After an up-and-in pitch from Bauer in the first inning, Cabrera turned toward the Indians' dugout and barked in the direction of manager Terry Francona. When the inning was over, Cabrera continued to shout and motion at the Tribe's bench, prompting home-plate umpire Clint Fagan to issue warnings to both teams. Cabrera's bat did the talking in the fifth, when he belted an opposite-field, three-run homer off Bauer to give Detroit a 4-0 lead.
"He's done it before," Indians catcher Roberto Perez said of Cabrera's antics in the first. "I think in that situation, we didn't know if he was serious about it or messing around. I couldn't tell. I thought the ball wasn't close to him. Bauer tried to come in on him. I think [Cabrera] got what he wanted -- that warning. So, we stopped pitching him in. I thought that was the game right there." More >
Avila blows it open: Bauer only pitched inside occasionally throughout his outing, and Detroit's batters made the adjustment. After Cabrera went the other way in the fifth, Avila followed suit in the sixth. Bauer stayed away with three pitches, and Avila sent the third over the 19-foot wall in left for a two-run homer to push Cleveland behind, 6-0. The catcher's homer had an exit velocity of 105 mph and traveled a projected 406 feet, per Statcast™.
"I call him George Clooney when he talks. He comes out there and calms me down. He hates that." --Norris, on Avila, whom Norris credited for talking him through early warnings
"It was good for us, because it got us right back in the game. But, you never know what can jump-start a team or a person. Sitting around for three hours and then putting a good swing on it, that should help." -- Francona, on Chisenhall's grand slam
SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
Cabrera's home run was his 24th all-time at Progressive Field, marking the most in history for a visiting player at Cleveland's home park. Entering Friday, his 1.031 OPS against the Indians ranked in the Top 5 in baseball history (min. 400 plate appearances). The other four on that list are Babe Ruth (1.091), Ted Williams (1.078), Edgar Martinez (1.050) and Lou Gehrig (1.031).
Chisenhall's home run was the first pinch-hit grand slam for an Indians batter since Aug. 8, 2015, when Jerry Sands accomplished the feat against the Twins.
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers:Justin Verlander faces the Indians for the 49th time in his career as Detroit and Cleveland continue their AL Central clash Saturday at 4:05 p.m. ET. He's 19-21 with a 4.48 ERA for his career against Cleveland, and 59-30 against the rest of the division combined.
Indians: Ace Corey Kluber will take the mound for the Indians in a clash with the Tigers on Saturday at Progressive Field. One matchup to watch is Kluber vs. Miguel Cabrera, who has hit .457 with five homers in 47 career at-bats against the right-hander.