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Tribe runs win streak to six on squeeze

Tribe runs win streak to six on squeeze

CLEVELAND -- Trevor Crowe had an idea of what was coming.

But anticipating a play and executing it are two very different things, especially when that task is bunting a 99-mph fastball from Justin Verlander.

Crowe delivered nonetheless, laying down a fifth-inning suicide squeeze that put the Indians ahead to stay in a 4-3 victory over the Tigers on Wednesday night to complete a doubleheader sweep at Progressive Field and run their winning streak to six games.

With Michael Brantley charging in from third base, Verlander unleashed a high-and-away 2-1 offering to Crowe, whose pregame studying served him well.

"With runners in scoring position and less than two outs, [Verlander] tends to work up with his fastball," Crowe said. "I just kind of anticipated the pitch was going to be up. I didn't know it was going to be that up, but I just tried to get on top of it.

"I kind of anticipated [the squeeze] might be an option. Every time I stepped out, I was ready for the sign. When I got it, it was awesome."

The result was pretty remarkable, too, as he directed the ball to Tigers third baseman Brandon Inge to score Brantley, snap a 3-3 tie and open plenty of eyes.

"We were all shocked," Indians manager Manny Acta said. "Once you see the sign, right away it's an adrenaline rush. It's probably the most exciting play in the game. Trevor put down a tremendous bunt. He deserves a lot of credit just to be able to put the bat on the ball, never mind get it in fair territory."

Said Tigers catcher Gerald Laird: "I was really surprised. That's a tough pitch to get on top of, but you have to tip your cap. He did a really good job."

The Tigers did a good job seizing early momentum, grabbing a 2-0 lead four batters into the game. Johnny Damon's one-out double set up an at-bat by cleanup hitter Ryan Raburn, who sent Indians starter Josh Tomlin's second-pitch fastball to right for a two-out, two-run home run.

Detroit extended its cushion to 3-0 in the second, though in a quite different fashion. With runners on second and third base and two out, Damon blooped an infield popup between Tomlin and second baseman Luis Valbuena, scoring Scott Sizemore.

Tomlin scattered nine hits over five innings of three-run ball to close out his rookie season with a victory. The 25-year-old righty worked at least five innings in each of his first 12 Major League starts, matching a franchise record.

"You know he's going to go five innings no matter what," Acta said. "He labored a little bit tonight, but he fought through it, just like he's done since he's been up here."

A two-out wild pitch from Verlander in the bottom of the second put the Indians on the scoreboard. Jordan Brown doubled with one down, took third via Jayson Nix's groundout and raced home on Verlander's errant toss.

The Tribe closed within a 3-2 deficit in the fourth, courtesy of Nix's two-out single that delivered Shelley Duncan, who stroked a one-out double.

Cleveland forged ahead behind a two-run fifth fueled by speed. With one on and one out, Brantley jumped on Verlander's first-pitch 95-mph fastball and drilled it for a triple to right, where the ball became wedged inside the bullpen fence. The quirky play bought Lou Marson extra time to score from first with the tying run.

Up stepped Crowe, and then came the sign, which delighted Brantley.

"It was my first time ever doing a squeeze in pro ball that actually worked," Brantley said. "[Third-base coach] Steve Smith came over and told me and I was like, 'Squeeze!' I got all excited like a little kid. I'm glad it worked."

Scoreless relief from Justin Germano, Justin Masterson, Joe Smith, Rafael Perez and Chris Perez -- who nailed down the final four outs for his 23rd save -- sewed up a 6-1 homestand for the Indians, who in these final days of the season have treated every game as if it's their last.

"It's all about lasting impressions," Acta said. "I told them that if you don't play as hard as you've been playing, that's what people are going to remember heading into the offseason. We wanted to finish this way. Our fans deserve this so they can end up with a good taste in their mouths.

"I'm proud of these guys."

Crowe especially.

"You can have youth," Acta said, "but if you're relentless, give all you've got and put effort into it, little by little you can make progress, and things like this will happen."

John Barone is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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