CLEVELAND — The Indians said their bats would heat up with the weather.
They weren’t kidding.
A night after producing 10 hits for the first time this season, Cleveland took it a step further Thursday at Progressive Field, reaching a season-high run total in a 9-3 rout that completed a four-game sweep of Central Division rival Detroit.
The win was the Indians’ fifth straight and 11th straight over the Tigers, whom they’ve outscored 65-13 in the 11 wins.
It was 74 degrees at first pitch and the bats were sizzling early, with the Indians getting a leadoff home run from Francisco Lindor and scoring six times in the first two innings.
Cleveland had 15 hits to Detroit’s nine.
“It’s huge. It’s huge,” Lindor said of the offensive success. “I don’t care how hard you work and how tough you are mentally, whenever you have results, it helps. It helps you to carry on with your day and it puts a smile on everyone’s faces. I’m happy we finally gave some runs to the pitching staff.”
The Detroit pitcher the Indians beat up was no slouch — 2017 All-Star Michael Fulmer, who allowed a career-high nine runs (six earned) and was pulled after failing to record an out after facing four batters in the fourth.
Cleveland scored four times in the second on a two-run double from Lindor and a two-run home run from Jose Ramirez.
“We faced a really good pitcher tonight and we had some really good at-bats,” manager Terry Francona said.
Right-hander Trevor Bauer was the recipient of the run support, continuing the rotation’s strong start to the season by allowing just two runs and striking out seven over seven innings.
“I don’t think any one of (the hitters) doubted that we were going to hit like this, but when it’s not happening and it goes on for a week or two and the focus is on that, it gets a little bit harder to keep the faith,” Bauer said. “So it’s good to see it warm up a little bit and the bats come alive. We all know that the offense is going to hit. There’s way too much talent in the offense for it to struggle like that all season.”
Bauer allowed only a run through the first six innings.
“I think he walked two and hit a guy, but he threw a lot of strikes,” Francona said. “It didn’t seem like he was really happy when he came off the field, but I thought he did a good job.”
Bauer has been more efficient to start the season, throwing 75 of his 105 pitches for strikes Thursday.
“It helps a lot,” he said. “Mostly it helps Tito not want to take me out of the game every inning, so that’s good. The longer I can hold off having him think about taking me out, the better. But mostly it doesn’t turn the lineup over as much.
“It’s kind of been a focus of mine. I feel like my stuff is good, probably better than it’s been this year. So if I can just throw it in the zone more, not really worry about locating it perfectly, but throw it in the zone more often, work ahead of guys, that’s gonna play in my favor.”
While the offense has been stuck in low gear, the starting staff has kept the Indians afloat. Over the last seven games, the rotation has posted a 4-1 record and 1.26 ERA, while striking out 44 over 50 innings.
It finally got rewarded the past two nights.
“They’re competing day in and day out,” Lindor said of the starters. “They’re helping us. They’re giving us a chance to win and that’s very important. That’s all we ask for.”
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