DETROIT — In the final inning of a grueling doubleheader, Bradley Zimmer still had plenty of energy.
Zimmer’s spectacular catch in left-center field punctuated Cleveland’s 4-1 victory over Detroit in Saturday’s nightcap. Jose Ramirez homered to cap a four-run rally in the sixth inning, and the Indians earned a split of the doubleheader after the Tigers took the opener 7-4.
Zimmer, Cleveland’s rookie center fielder, made a diving, backhanded grab in the ninth on a drive by Mikie Mahtook.
“That’s one of the best plays I’ve seen all year,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “After a long day at the ballpark, that was really fun to watch.”
The Tigers led 1-0 in the second game before the Indians broke through against Jordan Zimmermann (5-6). The right-hander had allowed one hit through five innings, but he didn’t make it through the sixth.
After tying the game on Michael Brantley’s RBI groundout, the Indians went ahead when Edwin Encarnacion’s flare dropped into right field for a run-scoring single.
Ramirez then connected for a two-run shot, his 13th homer of the year.
Carlos Carrasco (9-3) allowed a run and four hits in seven innings. He struck out seven and walked one.
Cody Allen pitched the eighth, and Andrew Miller worked a perfect ninth for his second save — with help from Zimmer’s catch.
“I got a good jump on it, and there’s a lot of room out there,” said Zimmer, who also took a hit away from Mahtook with a diving catch in the first game.
In the fourth inning of the nightcap, Detroit’s Jose Iglesias was hit in the left arm by one of Carrasco’s pitches, and the following inning, Zimmermann threw a pitch that grazed Carlos Santana as it sailed behind the Cleveland hitter. Santana gestured toward the mound, and the benches and bullpens slowly began to empty before order was quickly restored.
“No hitter obviously wants the ball coming near them,” Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said. “As far as the pitch, just a fastball going in. It was over right after it happened, so it really wasn’t a concern.”
Detroit’s James McCann had been hit twice in the opener.
“A couple of their guys got hit. I understand that,” Francona said. “I just, I don’t think you ever throw behind somebody. Looking back, though, it might have been the best thing to happen to us. It woke us up.”
In the sixth, Roberto Perez led off with a single and Jason Kipnis followed with a double. One out later, Brantley tied it with his grounder, and Encarnacion’s single barely made it over first baseman Miguel Cabrera into shallow right, giving the Indians a 2-1 advantage.
Ramirez’s drive to right made it 4-1 and chased Zimmermann.
In the opening game, Cleveland scored three runs in the top of the seventh to tie it at 4 before the Tigers answered with three in their half. With one out and J.D. Martinez on first, Nicholas Castellanos tripled off the out-of-town scoreboard in right-center to put Detroit back in front.
Bryan Shaw (2-3) intentionally walked Victor Martinez, putting runners at the corners, but Mahtook flared an RBI single to left to make it 6-4. McCann’s single brought home Victor Martinez to give Detroit a three-run lead.
Shane Greene (2-2) got the win for the Tigers, and Justin Wilson pitched the ninth for his eighth save.
Tigers: LF Justin Upton was a late scratch before the opener with right side soreness and ended up missing the whole doubleheader.
BUILDING OFF HIS FASTBALL
Detroit’s Anibal Sanchez, who pitched so poorly he was sent to the minors earlier this season, allowed three runs on four hits and a walk in 6 1/3 innings in the opener. He has a 3.12 ERA in three starts since his month at Triple-A.
Sanchez said his improved fastball command lets him use his “butterfly” pitches — a curveball that comes in around 75 mph and a slow changeup that can drop as low as 64 mph.
He joked that his pitches are drawing attention from the commissioner’s office.
“I got drug tested the other day,” Sanchez said. “They said my pitches were too slow.”
Indians: RHP Mike Clevinger (3-3) takes the mound for the series finale at Detroit on Sunday.
Tigers: RHP Justin Verlander (5-4) makes his 51st start against Cleveland. He’s faced the Indians more than any opponent in his career, going 20-22 with a 4.63 ERA against them.
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