DETROIT — Blaine Hardy refuses to let the lack of a defined role rattle him.
He gave up only one run in a spot start and JaCoby Jones hit a go-ahead, two-run homer in the third inning to help the Detroit Tigers beat the Cleveland Indians 2-1 on Saturday night.
Hardy (4-3) made his 10th start of the season, equaling his number of relief appearances. The left-hander replaced scheduled starter Francisco Liriano.
“He can go a lot of different ways,” Tigers manager Ron Gardnehire said. “Some pitchers can’t do that. They need more routine. If we asked him to close, he would probably go do that.”
Hardy gave up just four hits over five innings.
“The curveball was working for the first time in about two years,” he deadpanned.
Three Detroit relievers combined to pitch four scoreless innings. Shane Greene retired the side in order in the ninth for his 21st save in 24 chances.
Mike Clevinger (7-7) allowed two runs and struck out eight over five innings, making his start that was in doubt because of an illness that kept him up much of the previous night.
“Credit to the staff here to be able to put my body back together to get going,” he said.
Cleveland’s bullpen kept the team within a run, but its usually potent offense was kept quiet.
The AL Central-leading Indians entered the game as the second-highest scoring team in the majors, but could only score against the rebuilding Tigers on Jason Kipnis’ single in the second inning.
“They kind of took the spin out of bats,” Cleveland manager Terry Francona said. “Hardy was able to spin the breaking ball, especially in fastball counts.”
Indians: RHP Adam Plutko was recalled from Triple-A Columbus and OF Tyler Naquin was put on the DL because of with a strained right hip.
Tigers: LHP Josh Smoker was claimed off waivers from Pittsburgh and sent to Triple-A Toledo.
Indians: With Naquin’s injury making the Indians’ outfield even more banged up, Francona acknowledged the front office is trying to trade for an outfielder.
“Regardless of who is in the outfield, we’re supposed to win,” Francona said.
Tigers: Liriano was scheduled to start Saturday before being scratched because of an allergic reaction, giving him rashes on his back. Liriano had blood work done and results were expected Monday. … Jones left the game after the fifth inning with tightness in his lower back. “It’s nothing,” he said.
Stand-up stolen base
Jones stole second base in the fifth inning without sliding, beating the throw relatively easily. Gardenhire wished Jones had slid, but said the outfielder told him he didn’t because he got a big jump.
“I didn’t slide because I didn’t have to,” Jones said with a shrug.
Keeping it close
The Tigers had a chance to add to their one-run lead in the seventh with the bases loaded and no outs, chasing Zach McAllister.
Oliver Perez entered for a one-pitch outing, getting Leonys Martin to pop up. Neil Ramirez followed and retired the next two batters, including Nicholas Castellanos on an inning-ending strikeout on three pitches.
“They gave us a chance because that game could’ve got spread out really easily,” Francona said.
Cleveland RHP Corey Kluber (12-6) is scheduled to start today on five days’ rest and Detroit RHP Jordan Zimmermann (4-2) is expected to be on the mound in the series finale.