CLEVELAND — Prince Fielder hit a two-run double in the 14th inning as the Detroit Tigers won their 11th straight, 6-5 on Wednesday night over the Cleveland Indians, who fell six games out of first place in the AL Central and maybe left rookie Danny Salazar in for one too many pitches.
After the Tigers put two on against Bryan Shaw (2-3), Fielder lined his double off Marc Rzepczynski into the gap as the Tigers beat the Indians for the 11th time in 12 games and improved to 12-3 against their nearest division rival.
Jeremy Bonderman (2-3) pitched three innings in his first appearance for the Tigers since Oct. 1, 2010. Joaquin Benoit gave up a two-out RBI double to Michael Bourn and wild pitch before striking out Drew Stubbs with the tying run at third for his 14th save.
Detroit’s winning streak is its longest since winning 12 in a row in 2011, and the Tigers can match that run with a win on Thursday when Max Scherzer tries to become baseball’s first 17-game winner.
A four-game sweep of the Indians wouldn’t even be possible if not for Miguel Cabrera’s two-out, two-run homer in the eighth off Salazar to give the Tigers a 4-3 lead.
Austin Jackson opened the 14th with a double off Shaw and moved up on Torii Hunter’s fly to right. Hernan Perez walked before Rzepczynski came on and Fielder greeted him with his shot that split the outfielders and rolled to the wall.
Yan Gomes homered for the Indians, who suffered another demoralizing loss and again failed to close the gap on the defending AL champs.
Jackson hit a solo homer in the sixth for Detroit, now 24-7 since July 2.
Making his second major league start, Salazar pitched brilliantly—he struck out 10 in 7 2-3 innings—but made one major mistake and Cabrera made him pay.
With Detroit trailing 3-2 in the eighth, the slugger belted Salazar’s first pitch over the center-field wall for his 33rd homer—a 449-foot, no-doubt-about-it shot. Cabrera’s homer came after Hunter singled, but manager Terry Francona decided to stick with the 23-year-old, who had struck out Cabrera in his first three at-bats.
Francona’s choice to let Salazar pitch to Cabrera backfired. The Indians wanted to see what the right-hander in heat of the playoff chase and he delivered an electrifying performance with one unforgiveable glitch, a fastball down the middle of the plate that Cabrera nearly hit onto East 9th Street.
After Cabrera rounded the bases, Francona went out and replaced Salazar, who received a thunderous ovation from appreciative Cleveland fans.
Regrouping after Cabrera’s dramatic shot, the Indians tied it 4-4 in the eighth on an RBI groundout by Gomes.
The Indians had given Salazar a 3-2 lead in the seventh on Nick Swisher’s RBI double.
Before Cabrera’s majestic, towering homer, Salazar had stifled the AL’s top hitting team and showed poise beyond his years.
With Corey Kluber out for at least one month—and possibly longer—with a sprained right middle finger, Salazar will fill the vacant spot in Cleveland’s rotation.
He may stay there for a while.
The Indians pushed back Ubaldo Jimenez so Salazar could face the Tigers, who were wary of his velocity and their lack of exposure to him.
“I’m not very comfortable because this is a guy we don’t know who has a huge arm,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said before the game. “We’ll have to figure out a way to beat him.”
Salazar gave up a run in the second, but settled in and retired nine in a row before Jackson led off the sixth with his eighth homer to tie it 2-2. Salazar, though, was unfazed. He retired Hunter on a groundout, struck out Cabrera for the third time—on a 100 mph fastball—and popped up Fielder.
Salazar was in trouble in the seventh, and again showed composure.
Don Kelly doubled with one out into the right-field corner and raced to third when Swisher misplayed the carom for an error. But with the go-ahead run 90 feet from home, Salazar got Brayan Pena on a fly to shallow left and caught Ramon Santiago looking at strike three to end the threat.
After his dazzling debut on July 11, when he took a no-hitter into the sixth against Toronto, the Indians were convinced Salazar was ready for a bigger test, and there’s few bigger than the Tigers.
If the kid was nervous, he certainly didn’t show it.
An hour before the game, Salazar posted pictures on his Twitter account of his new glove and thanked his followers for their support promising he was “gonna give my 1000000% tonight.”
And then there was this, he wrote, “and we are gonna win.”
If not for one pitch, the Indians might have.
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