CLEVELAND -- One of the reasons the Indians have been slow out of the gate offensively this season has been the high volume of lefties they have encountered. On Sunday, Tigers left-hander Matthew Boyd got his turn against the Tribe and spun six strong innings en route to a 4-1 victory at Progressive Field.
With the win, Detroit took two out of three against Cleveland, which dominated the Tigers last season to the tune of a 14-4 record. It's the first series win for the Tigers at Progressive Field since June 22-24, 2015. Through a dozen games this year, though, the Indians have faced six left-handers. The two they ran into in this series -- Daniel Norris and Boyd -- combined to allow just one run over 12 innings.
Cleveland's only run off Boyd came in the sixth, when Michael Brantley and Edwin Encarnacion singled in consecutive at-bats and then pulled off a double steal. Jose Ramirez then brought Brantley home with a sacrifice fly to left field.
Boyd, who scattered seven hits and ended with three strikeouts against two walks, received some early support from catcher Alex Avila. In the second, Avila crushed a fastball from right-hander Carlos Carrasco to center field for a two-run homer. That was all Carrasco yielded over 6 2/3 innings, in which he struck out five and issued five walks.
"We're just not getting it done," Indians outfielder Brandon Guyer said. "It's tough, especially when Carlos pitched such a good game. We're in the game and we had chances. Not coming through, it's not fun."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED Avila powers up: In Friday's win over the Tribe, Avila belted a two-run homer off Trevor Bauer. Back in the lineup for Detroit on Sunday, the veteran catcher connected for another two-run shot -- this one off Carrasco. The right-hander threw a 96-mph four-seamer over the heart of the plate, and Avila sent it out to center with an exit velocity of 107 mph. The blast traveled a projected 416 feet, per Statcast™. That was the lone blemish within a strong outing by the Indians starter.
"Ball found the barrel," Avila said.
Insurance runs: In the first two games of this series, Detroit's bullpen allowed 10 runs against the Tribe. During Sunday's finale, the Tigers' offense scored two eighth-inning runs to give its relief corps some added cushion. Against Bryan Shaw, Nick Castellanos doubled and scored on a single by Miguel Cabrera. Not long after Cabrera exited due to tightness in his lower back, pinch-runner JaCoby Jones scored from third on a wild pitch from Zach McAllister.
"[Carrasco] kept it right there, which is what you want him to do," Indians manager Terry Francona said. "And he gave us a chance where you feel like, if you get some baserunners, you've got a chance to win that game. But, [Detroit] put a couple tack-on runs."
"The changeup kind of took the sting out of our bats. Sneaky fastball. Real good changeup. He could throw it any time, any count. And it's a good one." -- Francona, on Boyd
"That was last year. We know they're a good team. We know that the Central goes through them, but it's nice to get off to a good start." -- Ian Kinsler, on taking series from Cleveland after losing 14 of 18 in the rivalry last year
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
In the seventh inning, Carrasco sent a 91-mph two-seamer up and in to Jose Iglesias, who dodged the pitch and dropped to the dirt. It was initially ruled a hit-by-pitch, but the Indians challenged the ruling, which was overturned after a replay review lasting 40 seconds.
One pitch later, Andrew Romine sprinted from first to second base and was caught stealing by Cleveland catcher Yan Gomes. The Tigers challenged that out call, but the ruling stood after a replay review lasting one minute and 47 seconds.
WHAT'S NEXT Tigers: The Tigers are off on Monday before opening a three-game series vs. Tampa Bay on Tuesday with a 7:10 p.m. ET contest at Tropicana Field. Michael Fulmer (1-0, 2.25 ERA) tries to follow up on the 14 innings of one-run ball he twirled against the Rays in his American League Rookie of the Year 2016 campaign.
Indians: The Tribe is hitting the road for a seven-game swing through Minnesota and Chicago. Right-hander Danny Salazar (0-1, 4.63 ERA) is scheduled to take the mound against the Twins in an 8:10 p.m. ET tilt on Monday at Target Field in the opener of a four-game series.