Indians turn to another rookie to stay hot, sweep Tigers

The Cleveland Indians have heated up by winning 13 of 19 contests in June to sit a season-best six games over .500.

Victorious in seven of their past nine, the Indians aim to continue their dominance over the Detroit Tigers on Sunday when they vie for their second straight three-game series sweep of their American League Central rivals.

Cleveland has won six in a row against Detroit and improved to 7-1 versus its division foe on the season by following up a 7-6 victory in the series opener with a 2-0 triumph on Saturday.

In turn, the tumbling Tigers have lost seven of eight to fall to a season-worst 20 games below .500 following their league-worst eighth shutout of 2019.

After receiving a sterling start from Aaron Civale, the Indians hope for another on Sunday from fellow rookie Zach Plesac (2-2, 2.56 ERA).

The 24-year-old Plesac, who has yet to face Detroit in his brief career, registered his third quality start in his last four outings on Tuesday after allowing one run on two hits in seven-plus innings in a 10-3 romp at Texas.

"These are the days when the player development people should be bursting at the seams," Cleveland manager Terry Francona told reporters of the Indians' farm system. "They should be proud. I think we're 11 starters deep. It doesn't guarantee that guys are always going to pitch good, but they know how to act and they know how to compete."

Speaking of rookies, Oscar Mercado collected an RBI single in the third inning among his two hits on Saturday to improve to 23-for-64 with three homers, nine RBIs and 13 runs scored since June 5.

The 24-year-old is 9-for-23 with five RBIs and three runs scored in five games versus the Tigers this season.

Mercado is in line for even more playing time after the Indians designated struggling outfielder Leonys Martin for assignment.

"Unfortunately, Leonys has just had a really difficult time getting going offensively," said Chris Antonetti, president of baseball operations.

"We feel there are guys who are capable and have earned some of those at-bats. That kind of led to this decision."

Detroit left-hander Daniel Norris (2-5, 4.40) will get the nod in the series finale. The 26-year-old owns an 0-4 mark in his last seven outings and received his second straight no-decision on Tuesday after permitting two runs on four hits in six innings against Pittsburgh.

Norris sports a 3-1 mark with a 3.54 ERA in eight career appearances (five starts) against Cleveland, with Jose Ramirez (4-for-13, two doubles), Francisco Lindor (3-for-11) and Carlos Santana (3-for-11) turning in strong results versus the hurler. Jason Kipnis (0-for-7) hasn't been as fortunate, however.

JaCoby Jones has recorded back-to-back multi-hit performances after going 0-for-13 against the Indians in his previous matchups this season.

All told, the Detroit's struggling offense mustered six hits on Saturday, including just two against the rookie Civale. They hope for better success in the series finale.

"It's what happens when you don't have a lot of information on a guy," Tigers bench coach Steve Liddle said, per The Detroit News. "The previous night you get (Trevor) Bauer, one of the better pitchers in the league, but you see him twice in five days and you're a little more familiar with his pitches.

"Anytime hitters have more familiarity with a pitcher, it favors the hitter."

--Field Level Media

Copyright 2019 by STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.

Our Latest Stories