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CLEVELAND — Seconds after the Tigers nudged across the first run of Monday’s series finale against the Indians, thousands of fans at Progressive Field stood and set off on a fire-drill march to the concourse.
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The reason presumably was the light rain that began to fall, though a more cynical observer might have surmised Indians fans were hoisting the white flag.
Detroit starter Max Scherzer had an early lead. Game over, right?
Not on this night.
The Tigers won 4-2 and Scherzer remained perfect in his pursuit of history, though this brush between AL Central rivals would not lack for drama.
Victor Martinez’s two-run double with two outs in the 10th inning lifted the Tigers to their third straight series victory over the Tribe — and capped a long, tense, and rain-soaked night.
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An inning after the Indians had their own potential game-winning rally fade into the night, Detroit did not miss its chance. Cleveland reliever Matt Albers retired the first two Tigers hitters in the 10th before walking Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder. Martinez then drilled a double just beyond the reach of center-fielder Michael Bourn off the wall.
"I didn’t think it was going to go out," Martinez said. "I just hoped Michael wouldn’t catch it."
Joaquin Benoit worked around a pair of two-out hits in the bottom of the inning to earn his seventh save.
The Tigers extended their first-place lead over Cleveland to 3½ games. It was their 12th win in the past 16 games against the Indians.
"The Indians are not going to go away, I’m sure of that," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "But we came in and we had a really good series."
Scherzer (13-0), who was seeking to become the first pitcher to win his first 14 decisions since Roger Clemens began 14-0 in 1986, allowed two runs on seven hits and struck out seven in seven innings. But he settled for his fifth no-decision of the year, keeping his streak of perfection intact for his next start Saturday night against Texas.
As it was, Scherzer’s 19th straight start without a loss broke a franchise-record held since 1940 by Bobo Newsom while he struck out at least six hitters in his 18th consecutive start — the second-longest streak to begin a year in AL history, behind Pedro Martinez’s 20-game run in 2000. He also likely assured his place as the AL starter in next week’s All-Star game in New York.
Given the night’s steady rain and an early 20-minute delay, Leyland called Scherzer "teriffic."
"I thought this was our best win of the year," Scherzer said. "Everybody battled. It was a great game to be a part of."
Scherzer was far from his best but ultimately plenty good enough. Staked a 1-0 lead on Jhonny Peralta’s run-scoring double in the second inning, he was uneven early.
In the bottom of the second, Michael Brantley and Mike Aviles reached base with a pair of one-out singles, and advanced to second and third on a double steal. Then, after heavy rains brought out the tarp with two outs, Lonnie Chisenhall drilled Scherzer’s first pitch after the delay — a 2-2 changeup — into right field for a two-run single.
Scherzer labored in the third, too, with the Indians loading the bases on a pair of two-out singles and a walk. But he escaped unharmed after fielding an inning-ending chopper from Aviles, and mostly avoided trouble the rest of the night.
In fact, as usual, he grew stronger, allowing only two hits over his final four innings. The right-hander lasered a 97-mph fastball past Jason Kipnis on his 117th and final pitch of the night to end the seventh.
"I always say you can judge our outing by your last 15 pitches, and I thought my last 15 pitches were my best," Scherzer said.
Indians starter Scott Kazmir, meanwhile, allowed two runs on four hits and struck out five over 5 2/3 innings. Matt Tuiasosopo tied the game at 2 in the fourth with a solo homer.
Cleveland rallied in the ninth when Mark Reynolds hit a lead-off single and pinch-runner Drew Stubbs advanced to second on a wild pitch with nobody out. But Tigers reliever Drew Smyly relieved Rondon and set down Cleveland in order. Chisenhall flied out to center, Yan Gomes struck out, and Bourn flied out to left.
Stubbs was one of 10 men the Indians stranded on base.
Martinez led the Tigers with two hits to extend his hitting streak to 10 games.Nick Swisher, Brantley, and Reynolds each had two hits for the Indians.
Jeter goes hitless
MOOSIC, Pa. — New York Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter went 0 for 2 with a walk and a run scored in five innings for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in his third game back from an ankle injury.
Jeter tested the left ankle several times while playing the field for just the second time and was part of four defensive plays.
Jeter reached on an error in the first inning and walked leading off the third inning.