Indians 5 Tigers 3: The “Magic” Bites Verlander

Travis Hafner

Wow. Wow. Wow.

Was that something special or what? And it looked as though the game wasn’t even going to be played.

All day long in Cleveland it looked like a torrential downpour would happen. The skies were ominous, but nothing more than a sprinkle hit downtown. Then at about 6:30, the heavens opened up and the rains came down. They came down hard. However, the storms blew past quickly and the game started only 25 minutes behind scheduled. I thought out loud on Twitter that a rainout wouldn’t be such a bad thing, considering the Indians had to face Justin Verlander, the game’s best pitcher.

I’m glad to say that I was wrong.

For the first six innings though, the crowd of 34,579 seemed to be sick over the $1 hot dogs they consumed. The Indians couldn’t touch Verlander other than a first inning run (Shin-Soo Choo led off with a double, was moved to third on a ground ball, and brought in on a Jason Kipnis sac fly). He was dialing up in the high-90’s as usual and the Indians could only muster three hits.

On the other side of it was Zach McAllister, who has been the Indians best starter over the past six weeks. He did his best to match Verlander pitch for pitch, but looked as though he’d be on the short end of this one. He put two on with one out in the seventh, and was lifted for side-armer Joe Smith. Manager Manny Acta was looking for a double play ball. Two nights prior, Smith had been touched up for a two-run, game-tying homer against Miguel Cabrera.

Last night, he would get his revenge.

Smitty induced a 5-4-3 inning-ending DP.  It kept the Indians within striking distance at 3-1. “The most important play of the game, defense-wise,” Acta would call it.

We may look back on it as the turning point in the season. Why? Because what came next, nobody could have expected.

Verlander came out for the seventh to face Carlos Santana, Travis Hafner, and Jose Lopez. Earlier in the game Santana and Hafner had a chance to drive in a run with two on and nobody out in the fourth. Santana grounded into a double play and Hafner grounded out. It was more of the same from these two who have struggled all season long. After that horrific display, I tweeted the following:

As if they wanted to stick it right to me directly, the two underachieving big bats in the middle of the Indians lineup may have changed the course of the season in the span of two pitches.

Santana took Verlander’s first pitch deep and gone to the right-center field seats to bring the Indians to within a run. Hafner took Verlander’s next pitch, another fastball, to almost the exact same spot for his 10th homer on the season. Progressive Field was up for grabs. It was, hands-down, the loudest the park has been all season.

“That was so exciting,” Santana said. “I couldn’t believe the first two pitches, me and Hafner, we got home runs. I’m so excited with the team’s comeback. ”

Oh, but they weren’t done there. Lopez would single to put the lead run on base. You don’t rattle Justin Verlander, but the Indians clearly got to him. He settled down momentarily, retiring both Casey Kotchman and Shelley Duncan, but with two out, Choo singled to keep the line moving for Asdrubal Cabrera.

Cabby has been struggling of late, but he picked a great time to get a big hit. He laced a single to right, scoring Lopez.  Kipnis followed with a line drive off of the glove of shortstop Ramon Santiago. Choo would score on the play. The Tribe scored four runs on six hits, sending nine men to the plate in the seventh against Verlander.

Click here for a real treat, Tom Hamilton’s calls of the seventh inning comeback.

Wow. Wow. Wow.

At 5-3 with six outs left, Acta turned things over to Vinnie Pestano and Chris Perez.

Vinnie knifed through the Tigers in order with a surgical touch. Nobody knows or talks about him nationally, but V.F.P. is the best set-up man in the game right now, bar none. The guy is having an unbelievable season. He’s allowed just one earned run in his last 20 appearances, spanning back to the beginning of June. In every big spot, the guy seems to come through, no matter who he faces.

Perez put two on in the ninth, but got through for his 29th save. He is now seven for seven against the Tigers this season. Incredible when you consider the Indians have played the Tigers nine times and are now 7-2. Their success against Detroit is the reason they are not dead and buried in the division and sit just 3.5 games back.

“We were talking about it when Detroit came in,” Smith said. “We’re confident against the Tigers when they come in. We’ve played well against the Tigers and, for the past two years, we’ve played well against the Tigers at our park. We really came together, whatever it was.”

What a monster comeback win this was for our boys. We may look back at this one and say it was the game that changed everything. The Indians are a resilient group, a true reflection of their manager. They looked like their season was about to fall apart after losing three straight at home this weekend to Baltimore and falling under .500, but with Detroit looming, they righted their ship, winning three of the next four. Our Wahoos now head on a nine-game road trip through three AL Central teams – Minnesota, Kansas City, and another meeting with the Detroit.

It is absolutely imperative that they take care of business against that soft underbelly of the division before flying to Detroit next weekend. Things get started tonight at Target Field in Minneapolis. Josh Tomlin (5-7, 5.34 ERA), who like Derek Lowe, probably knows he needs to pitch well to stay in the rotation, will take the mound for the Tribe. He will face left-hander Scott Diamond (8-4, 3.16). The last time he faced the Tribe, he went seven innings, allowing three unearned runs in a 6-3 Twins win.

(photo via Chuck Crow/The Plain Dealer)

  • JNeids

    I hate to start this off on a petty Debbie downer note, but Choo scored on Kipper’s single in the 7th, not ACab (rendering his taking second base moot).

    That said, doesn’t change a thing – ROLL TRIBE!

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Huge comeback win I was going to say before the game I thought they’d get to Verlander because they always seem to do but talk about drama. The FO owes it to this team and it’s manager to go and get them an infusion of talent. Send a signal to them and Indians fans that you aren’t as baffled as you seem to be, something more then “players need to play better!”

  • baclap

    I wish I would have gone to this game instead of the stinker against the birds on Saturday.

  • Paper Tiger

    Quite a compliment to Detroit that you see yourselves as having beat some sort of “Goliath”. When actually Tigers have been a struggling team of mediocrity since opening day this year. But congratulations on being so effective against Verlander. That really is a rare one.

  • mgbode

    also important is that Santana/Hafner followed that up in their next AB too. Santana’s double followed by Hafner actually shortening his swing (he remembers how to do that) and getting the soft grounder to the right side to advance Carlos (3B and 1 out). Not their fault we didn’t get the insurance run in the 8th.

  • mgbode

    in 2012:
    Verlander 0
    Tribe 2

    His career 5.79 ERA before last nights game against the Tribe seemed to hold up as well.

  • mgbode

    also, I have railed on the fans at times this season. it was only on my laptop, but the 34K+ seemed pretty loud anytime the Tribe did anything remotely positive.

  • Steve

    Dollar dogs every night!

  • Steve

    The only thing the FO owes is diligence in an effort to win a WS. Making a trade to appease the fans (hate to break it to you and the 92.3 morning show, the players already here aren’t going to dramatically change because you brought someone in) is the quickest way to be sitting with them.

  • Harv 21

    I thought this single game was it, the one that determined whether they’d be selling or buying (well, at least not selling). Verlander leaves two consecutive pitches up and it could impact guys’ careers.

    I don’t think this team has the talent to compete, but they never flatline or choke like Wedgie teams, and that makes them at least intermittently watchable.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    LoL okay Stevearino whatever you say because you are all knowing!!! Some of us have bigger expectations then $1 weenies.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    That’s why I’d go to a baseball game, for the hot dog!

  • Harv 21

    Don’t dis the dogs. Unlike George Costanza, I consider a $1 weenie the King of the Processed Meats.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Well at least you know where to go but my apologies.

  • JK

    U MAD BRO?!

  • nj0

    The fans that actually go to the games have been amazing all year.

  • cmm13

    Also take into consideration that 1/4 of the fans in the seats were Tiger fans.
    I have been to both Tigers series in town this year and each game they have had huge numbers of their own fans in attendance.
    Even with that the Tribe fans have done a good job of drowning them out.

  • cmm13

    GULP, i’m with Shamrock on this one. Make the move, Soriano, Pence, Dempster.
    A SP and a RH bat. Go for it now.
    If you don’t this window is shut until Lindor is able to grow some facial hair and hold an MLB bat.

  • Steve

    Why even respond if you don’t want to add anything constructive to the conversation?

    Here’s the question I have for you. What odds do you give the Indians of making the playoffs if Santana, Masterson, Jimenez were to play below average the rest of the way (like they did early on) but they added someone like Soriano (who I honestly have very little interest in, but thats for another day)? What odds do you give them of making the playoffs if those three play like they have very recently, but the Indians don’t acquire a name player?

  • cmm13

    The same odds that the Tigers may fall back into their mediocre offense, that the White Sox realize they aren’t as good as they think they are.
    The problem with probability is it’s just that…probable but not definite.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Steve doesn’t like probability despite all of the variables he would like me to encompass in my hypothesis. Antonetti told Steve all it took was for the Indians to play better and by God man that’s all it takes.

    Of course the Indians also said when the time was right and they contended ownership would see that they added the necessary piece(s). We all ASSUMED they meant the trade deadline but we would be wrong. The forward minded Indians were smart enough to address this before the season ever even started ya know Sizemore, Cunningham, Spilborghs, Kotchman. If that wasn’t enough for you demanding people they gave you Damon and Lillibridge. What more could you possibly want?

  • sizemore who

    Riddle me this…how much would you give up to San Diego for volquez and headley? Both have team friendly contracts past this year. I would start with Lindor, chiz, and tomlin/gomez and see where that got us.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Indians beat reporter from 92.3 said Santana to SD for Volquez, Headley and a Padres top prospect so I don’t think any of the names you mentioned would cut it.

  • mgbode

    I love Santana. I think he’s going to be a fine hitter and a power hitter at that as he develops.

    But, Volquez is a very solid middle rotation guy with potential for more (only signed through next season though). And Headley is no slouch himself. If we really do get one of their top prospects too and only give up Santana, then I would do this for sure.

  • Steve

    So you’re not actually going to answer the question?

  • Steve

    Right, we can only deal in probabilities. Adding a piece doesn’t guarantee a postseason spot, or even improved performance. The area where the Indians have the most ability to improve is getting guys with star potential (the three listed) back on track.