CLEVELAND — Trevor Bauer entered on a roll, but he struggled Friday night.
No matter, the Indians’ red-hot offense had his back.
Bauer put his team in a hole, failing to last five innings, but his hitters climbed out of it to lift Cleveland to a 7-6 victory over Detroit in front of 30,717 fans at Progressive Field.
The Indians hit three home runs — Carlos Santana, Tyler Naquin and Jordan Luplow — winning for the 11th time in 16 games and sixth in the last eight.
“It’s a good arm on the mound (left-hander Matthew Boyd) for those guys and he pitched well. We’ve been swinging it well,” said Naquin, who made a game-saving play in the ninth inning. “We have a lot of guys feeling confident.”
Minutes after being announced as an All-Star finalist for a starting spot, Santana belted a two-run homer in the opening inning to put Cleveland on the board first. Santana homered for the second straight game, reaching safely for the 34th time in 35 games.
But as Bauer began to unravel, Indians hitters managed little over the next three innings off Boyd.
The comeback began in the fifth with a leadoff homer from Naquin and continued in the sixth with Luplow’s leadoff homer and Roberto Perez’s RBI single that tied the game at 5.
It was Luplow’s eighth homer off a left-handed pitcher, tying him for the most in the American League.
The Indians, who entered the night averaging six runs over their last 15 games, scored the go-ahead runs two innings later on an RBI triple from Jason Kipnis and a sacrifice fly from Jake Bauers.
Kipnis’ drive to center was originally ruled a two-run homer but was overturned. The review wasn’t all bad for the Indians, as the play was ruled a triple instead of a ground-rule double that would have kept Jose Ramirez on third base.
Bauer, who had allowed only a run over his two previous starts, including the first shutout of his career Sunday in Detroit, surrendered five runs on 10 hits (two home runs). He started the fifth but failed to record an out, allowing four straight hits, including a leadoff homer to Christin Stewart.
“I didn’t adjust quickly enough and when I tried to adjust, they seemed to be on everything,” Bauer said. “Great team win, though, guys came back and played hard. Ultimately that’s what you come to the ballpark to do is win. Proud of my teammates for that.”
While Indians hitters were busy mounting a comeback, Cleveland’s bullpen was preventing Detroit from extending the lead.
“They were terrific and they had to be,” manager Terry Francona said of his relievers.
Right-hander Nick Goody worked out of an extremely sticky situation after relieving Bauer with two on and nobody out in a 5-2 game.
Goody walked the first batter he faced to load the bases but retired three straight to keep Cleveland within striking distance.
Brad Hand converted his 21st save in as many chances, but got help from Naquin.
The left-hander allowed hits to the first two batters, including an RBI single to Stewart that brought the Tigers within a run.
The following batter, Nicholas Castellanos, sent a sinking liner into right field that appeared earmarked for at least a single, but Naquin closed on the ball and made an acrobatic diving backhanded catch. He got to his feet and threw to first just in time to double up Stewart.
“It took one of the better catches you’ll see in a long, long time to stop our rally,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said. “It’s good baseball. It’s exciting baseball. We did everything we could, but the guy made a hell of a play and that’s how the game ended. It was a great play. That’s all we talked about. That kid is an athlete and made a great play.”
“It’s a rush. It happened quick,” Naquin said. “It’s a good atmosphere to be able to make that play. But also Brad Hand always gives us a chance to win, so it’s our job, too, maybe whenever he’s not exactly how he wants to be, we need to step up and help him out as well.”
Hand got Miguel Cabrera to pop up for the final out.