The good news was that the Tribe was that they already had won the series. The bad news was that they were going to be facing yet another lefty they hadn’t seen before. But didn’t we get past that two days ago against Drew Smyly?
It was getaway day at Comerica Park, and the Indians played early as if they couldn’t wait to get on the plane for St. Louis. When sinker-baller Derek Lowe pitches, you know a lot of balls are going to be in play. In this one, the Tigers hit them where the Indians weren’t in the first inning and put our Wahoos in a serious hole.
Four of the first five Detroit hitters knocked singles through the holes in the infield, putting the Tigers ahead two nothing. They would add two more with two out on a wild pitch and a two-out RBI single by the light-hitting Don Kelly. Lowe was clearly frustrated, but things would shortly get worse for him.
In a 4-1 game in the fourth, Lowe was one out away from ending the inning. Instead, Brennan Boesch, who entered the game in a 2-30 slump, ripped an RBI ground rule double to deep center. One batter later, the great Miguel Cabrera popped a two-run blast off the railing in right field, just over the out-stretched arm of Shin-Soo Choo.
“We’ve been throwing a lot of sinkers early in the count. I’ve left a few up and they’ve taken advantage of it. You have to constantly learn from it,” said Lowe. “”I fell behind Boesch. That was, for me, the biggest at-bat.”
Now 7-1, this one seemed all but over. However, the rookie left-hander Casey Crosby was shaky at-best and the Indians did their best to chip away at the Tiger lead. They got two back in the sixth on a Carlos Santana RBI groundout and a Jose Lopez sac fly. An inning later, Tiger reliever Brayan Villarreal easily retired the first two before giving up a single to Lou Marson, who extended his hitting streak to eight games. With the top of the order up, Detroit manager Jim Leyland called for lefty Phil Coke.
Choo greeted Coke with a single. Asdrubal Cabrera then roped a double to deep left scoring two and all of a sudden, it was a 7-5 game and the tying run was at the plate. Jason Kipnis beat out an infield single to short and Leyland had seen enough of Coke. He called for his set-up man Joaquin Benoit. The hard-throwing righty promptly walked Santana to load the bases. A single would tie the game. It was Lopey time.
Jose Lopez has been so good in spots this year. He had driven in the Indians first run on this day. The count was 2-2. Lopez ripped a fly ball to deep center field, the deepest part of a very deep Comerica Park. Tigers centerfielder Quintin Berry turned one way, turned the other, and made a leaping catch to save the game for his team. As Tom Hamilton put it “that ball would have been out of Progressive Field.”
“It wasn’t that high, so I thought it had a chance to go over his head,” manager Manny Acta said. “But, Berry, he’s very athletic and fast back there. He can make up ground pretty quick. He recovered pretty good and made the catch. This is a very spacious center field.”
They would get another chance in the eighth against Benoit. Michael Brantley (who extended his hitting streak to 15 games) and Casey Kotchman would single and advance into scoring position with two out, but Benoit would get Choo to pop out to end the threat. Tiger closer Jose Valverde pitched a perfect ninth to finish off the Tribe, who certainly had their chances in this one. They were just 3-10 with runners in scoring position and grounded into two double plays, the biggest coming in the fourth with runners on first and third and one out. Shelley Duncan was the culprit.
You can’t win them all, but you have got to give the Indians a ton of credit for working themselves back into this game. A special mention must go to the relief work of Scott Barnes who pitched two perfect innings while the offense was scratching and clawing to add runs. As a whole, it seems as though Acta has his bullpen mix as solid as it has been all year. Jeremy Accardo (1.54 ERA), Barnes (0.00 ERA), and Nick Hagadone (2.89 ERA) have really been great additions.
Despite the fact that they lost, the Indians still took the series and are now 5-1 against their rival.
“It was a lot to overcome,” Indians manager Manny Acta said. “But, hey, we’ll move on. We’re happy with the way we’re playing right now.”
Now the Tribe moves to interleague play where they will travel to St. Louis to take on the World Champion Cardinals. Old friend Jake Westbrook (4-5. 4.23 ERA) will make his first start against the Indians since he was dealt to St. Louis in 2010. Westbrook spent nine seasons in Cleveland amassing 69 wins and being the rock of the rotation for five of them. He will always hold a special place in my heart as he kept the Indians in the infamous 2007 Game Seven of the ALCS in Boston before Joel Skinner held up the stop sign.
The Indians will counter with Josh Tomlin (2-3, 5.23 ERA).
(AP Photo/Paul Sancya)