Cleveland Indians' Michael Brantley watches his ball after hitting a one-run single off Detroit Tigers relief pitcher Joaquin Benoit in the eighth inning of a baseball game on Sunday, May 1, 2011, in Cleveland. Shelley Duncan scored on the play. The Indians won 5-4.
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CLEVELAND — No matter the situation, the upstart Cleveland Indians can do no wrong this season.
Cleveland has baseball’s best record at 19-8 after Michael Brantley singled home the go-ahead run in a three-run eighth inning Sunday and the Indians beat the Detroit Tigers 5-4 for their 13th straight home win.
“I don’t think anybody could see this coming,” closer Chris Perez said. “Everything is coming together. The starting pitchers are keeping us in there, the bullpen is doing the job. Two outs, none on? The offense will do something. This is a lot of fun.”
Cleveland’s third consecutive victory in its last at-bat and sixth straight overall pushed Detroit’s losing streak to six games. It also gave the Indians five series sweeps this season, one more than all of 2010 when they went 69-93.
“A super, fantastic homestand. Just terrific,” manager Manny Acta said. “Winning breeds confidence and these kids right now are feeling pretty good.”
Brantley followed a tying RBI single by Orlando Cabrera by lining an 0-1 pitch from Joaquin Benoit (0-2) to left, scoring Shelley Duncan from second base.
Matt LaPorta added a sacrifice fly for his third RBI and a 5-3 lead as Cleveland extended its best home start in 70 years. The Indians are 13-2 at home for the first time since 1941. They didn’t get their 13th home win a year ago until June 28.
“It’s amazing,” veteran infielder Adam Everett said. “You can’t script out the way we’re winning. These guys never quit and it’s really exciting.”
Chad Durbin (1-1) struck out the only batter he faced, Brandon Inge, to end the eighth. Perez yielded an RBI single to Miguel Cabrera in the ninth before earning his seventh save.
Next up, a six-game trip to the West Coast, starting Tuesday in Oakland. Acta believes the Indians can win there, too.
“Expectations don’t change,” he said. “You try to win every game. We’ll try to take some home cooking on the road.”
Detroit let leads slip away in all three games in Cleveland and will open a four-game set at home Monday against the New York Yankees.
“We’re not doing enough things to win games,” manager Jim Leyland said. “We’re either getting behind and not catching up or getting ahead and not holding them off.”
Benoit twice failed to stop the surging Indians. After serving up a game-ending grand slam to Carlos Santana on Friday night, he yielded a single to Shin-Soo Choo to start the eighth and plunked Duncan in the hand with one out Sunday. Orlando Cabrera then singled off the glove of a diving Inge at third to score Choo for a 3-all tie.
“I’m struggling,” Benoit said. “Nothing is going right for me now.”
Alex Avila’s bases-loaded sacrifice fly in the top of the eighth gave Detroit a 3-2 lead.
Indians starter Justin Masterson yielded a leadoff single to Don Kelly and hit Miguel Cabrera in the left leg with a pitch to open the eighth. Cabrera glared at the mound, gestured at Masterson and walked slowly to first. Earlier in the game, both benches had been warned after Masterson and Tigers starter Phil Coke plunked batters.
“Under no circumstances was Masterson trying to do that,” Acta said. “We respect Miggy. My guys are not afraid of him, but I am. He’s the most scary guy in the league.”
LaPorta’s two-run double in the second tied the score against Coke.
Kelly had an RBI double in the first, when the Tigers added a run on a passed ball by Santana.
Masterson avoided big trouble in the second. Detroit loaded the bases with one out on a bloop single, walk and bunt single. Masterson got Ramon Santiago to ground into an around-the-horn double play started by Everett.
“He dialed it up after that,” Acta said. “He gave us 120 pitches and gave us a chance to win.”
Coke gave up two runs and four hits over six innings in his fifth start after opening the season in the bullpen. The lefty walked two and struck out four. Lefty hitters in Cleveland’s lineup went 1 for 8 off him. Coke has held lefties to a .162 average (6 of 37) this season.
Masterson gave up seven hits and two earned runs over seven innings, striking out seven. He threw 120 pitches as he tried to match Cliff Lee’s 6-0 start for the Indians in 2009.
NOTES: Tigers C-DH Victor Martinez, out since April 19 with a strained right groin, will begin a rehab assignment with Triple-A Toledo on Monday. ... Indians RHPs Mitch Talbot and Carlos Carrasco, both on the disabled list with strained elbows, are progressing. Talbot threw a 30-pitch bullpen session Saturday and is scheduled for another one Tuesday. Carrasco is playing long toss, will throw in the bullpen Monday and could go on a minor league rehab assignment late next week. ... Detroit stole two bases. Santana has thrown out only one of 12 runners attempting to steal this year.
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