Tigers 7, Indians 5: Salazar’s implosion starts Tribe demise

Michael BrantleyWhat was thought to be a pitchers duel turned into something unexpected. The sun splashed afternoon at Comerica Park and Detroit had a much different feel than the frigid night before, but with Justin Verlander and Danny Salazar locking horns, the thought was that the fans in attendance would be in for a quick afternoon. What transpired was three hour and thirty-eight minute affair where neither starter pitched past the fifth.

For the first three innings, things breezed right along with Salazar and Verlander putting up zeroes. The Tribe’s phenom was actually better, setting down the first eight Tigers he faced. Offensively, the Wahoo offense continued where they left off a night earlier, leaving runners on base. A leadoff walk from Michael Bourn was wasted after Nick Swisher struck out and Jason Kipnis grounded into a double play. Two innings later, the Tribe really had Verlander on the hook. David Murphy started things with a walk, but a second double play ball – this one from Yan Gomes – erased that mini-threat. But Lonnie Chisenhall and Bourn both singled in front of a Swisher walk to load the bases. It was Kipnis’s chance to get the Tribe on the board, but he K’d on three pitches. He was clearly upset by an iffy first strike call from umpire Lance Barrett and told him so on his way to the dugout after the third strike. Barrett used an extremely quick hook, tossing Kipnis for the first time in his career.

Said the Indians second baseman: “I didn’t think I showed him up. I didn’t try to stand there. I’m not here to show the guy up. I was just walking away and I told him that the first pitch changed the entire at-bat and you don’t need to be helping a guy like that out. Obviously, I used a couple words to express [myself], but that’s the full sense of what I said.”

Through three scoreless inning, it seemed like the Indians would hold the pitching advantage as it only took Salazar 35 pitches to do what Verlander did in 66. A five and fly was almost assuredly going to happen to the two-time Cy Young winner. In the fourth, both teams would get on the board. A two-out rally was started when Asdrubal Cabrera laid down a bunt single and advanced to second on Verlander’s throwing error. David Murphy, the new rock of the lineup, punched one out to center for an RBI single in a great at-bat. The Tigers responded with back to back one out singles from Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez and a sac fly from Austin Jackson. Yes, Miggy got from first to third on a single to center. Stop the presses.

But as they did so many times a year ago, the Tribe offense responded by working the starter deep into counts and waiting for their pitch. Chisenhall got things started with another single but was erased on a Bourn fielder’s choice. After Swisher’s fly out, Mike Aviles (replacing Kipnis), reached on Nick Castellanos’s “ole” job on a ground ball his way. The slumping Carlos Santana did what he does best these days, walk, to load the bases for Mr. Clutch himself, Michael Brantley. Once again, Dr. Smooth delivered, this time with a two-run single to right, giving the Tribe a 3-1 lead. Now it was up to Salazar to keep the Tigers where they were.

“It was a big shutdown inning for us,” manager Terry Francona said about the fifth inning. “We get on the board, take the lead and they got the bottom of the lineup.”

This should have set up perfectly for Danny. The weak hitting Alex Avila and Alex Gonzalez were the first two due up. Neither is exactly known for their patience. Of course, Salazar walked them both. He was ahead of Avila 1-2 and then threw seven straight balls.

“You give a walk and you start thinking,” Salazar said. “For me, I started putting too many things in my mind. Maybe I’m pulling a little bit. Maybe my arm is behind. I started thinking a little bit about those things. That’s when I lost control on every pitch.”

A little reprieve came when Rajai Davis couldn’t put a bunt down and then popped up, but it was only temporary. Ian Kinsler, the newest Indian killer, took a chest high fastball deep over the fence in left-center for a three-run homer. That fast, the lead evaporated and the Tribe now trailed 4-3. But they weren’t done with him. Torii Hunter reached on an infield single and was doubled over to third by Cabrera. After Martinez was intentionally walked to load the bases, Jackson came through with his second sacrifice fly of the day. That would be all for Salazar who was replaced by CC Lee.

For the second consecutive start, Salazar failed to even go five innings. He departed giving up five earned runs on six hits in four and two-thirds. He struck out three and walked three on 82 pitches. We saw the best and the worst of Salazar in the same start, but he knows things have to change.

“I totally lost control,” Salazar said. “The first couple innings, I was throwing the ball down in the zone. I wasn’t trying to overthrow any pitches like my fastball. I was throwing hard and soft. In that fifth inning, I think I tried to get more aggressive and too perfect there, and I just lost control.”

The good news for the offense was that for the last four innings, the porous Tiger bullpen was going to have to take them to the winners circle. Lefty Phil Coke was the first guy to emerge. Gomes would reach on a one out throwing error by Gonzalez at short. Chisenhall followed with his third straight hit. Once again, Chiz was erased on a fielder’s choice by Bourn. Right-hander Al Alburquerque came on to face Swisher who again failed to come through with the key hit, stranding two more runners. Swisher is three for his last 23 and has looked bad doing so.

The Tigers added a key insurance run in the sixth against Lee. It became even more key when Brantley hit a two-run bomb to right off of Albuquerque, cutting the Detroit lead to a single run. It is just too bad Brantley’s clutch gene hasn’t spread to the likes of Swisher, Santana, and Kipnis.

Chisenhall’s fourth hit (he’s now 12-23 on the season), a leadoff single in the eighth against Joba Chamberlain, was wasted when the top third of the Tribe order failed to even move him over. They could muster nothing in the ninth with closer Joe Nathan working. The 7-5 Tigers win gave them a split of the weather shortened two-game series. This was a very winnable game that the Tribe.

Up next for the Wahoos is a return home for a weekend set with the Toronto Blue Jays. Justin Masterson looks to get back to his top tier form, something his team could really use. He will face off with Drew Hutchinson.

  • The_Matt_Of_Akron

    It’s only April, it’s only April….

  • JNeids

    “Yes, Miggy got from first to third on a single to center. Stop the presses.”
    Not exactly sure how you meant this as I could only follow along on my phone and didn’t actually see the play, but seriously, how does this happen? This may just be my irrational missing of Tony Plush, but I have to assume Bourn is to blame. Speaking of which, who saw Morgan, Chiz and Murphy >>> Bourn, Swisher, Rayburn (and I suppose I’ll throw Kipnis and Santana in here). #smallsamplesize

  • Pat Leonard

    That was pretty frustrating… Salazar was absolutely mowing down Tigers left and right, and then his control completely abandoned him. It was almost like he realized that it was a day game and the Indians aren’t allowed to win day games when I’m listening to the radio at work.

  • cmm13

    While the focus here may be on Salazar’s implosion and the Tribe starters; I am officially concerned about the regular 2 – 5 hitters on this lineup.

    Swisher looks like he’s pressing and it’s only April, Carlos still hasn’t met the fastball he didn’t want to marry and Cabrera will swing at any first pitch you throw him.
    These same issues reared their ugly heads last year and it took a miracle streak at the end to cover them up.

    So while Mickey needs to get his pitchers heads on straight, Ty and Matt either need to get on the same page with these guys or we abandon the two hitting coach tryout.

  • cmm13

    Morgan, Chiz and Murphy >>> Bourn, Swisher and Rayburn.

    While on paper the talent definitely sits on the right side of that equation the X factor here; Morgan and Chiz are playing for their baseball lives.

    Bourn and Swish already got paid.

  • The Other Tim

    I’m so so so so sick of touching up Verlander only to still lose anyway.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Chisenahll is on fire…Santana is messed up in the head from another position change…Swisher is horrible right now…Chisenhall @ 3B, Santana @ 1B and Swisher to the pine.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Hate to keep harping on it but this lineup sure would look a lot better with a right handed power hitter. There are just to many light hitting moving parts with this lineup they were able to do it a year ago but to expect them to do it another year saying something like “well Bourn and Swisher didn’t have great years and they still did well” was a mistake. As we have learned there’s no guarantee players will do better and in most cases, at least it seems with Cleveland teams, they often do worse. But hey it’s still only April 18th too.

  • cmm13

    Wow, tough love much?

    Tito won’t sit Bro-hio, he’s gonna need to figure this out himself I fear.

    Disagree on Los being messed up in the head due to his position change; his glove has looked good over at the corner. His problem stems from him trying to be the big bopper in this lineup when he’s not.

    His best stretches come when he’s lacing doubles to the corner and working walks when he doesnt see his pitch. He hit that walk off grand slam a few years back and ever since then thinks he’s the second coming of David Ortiz.

  • cmm13

    If there is one sure thing in Baseball it’s that you’ll never definitively predict what a player will do next year based on this year’s stats.

    Which is why the saber-metrics guys drive me nuts. Sure they can get you closer than nothing but last I checked there wasn’t an equation piece for “guy got a divorce” or “dude got arrested” or “the talk of the hot young prospect in AAA is getting to him”.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    There’s nothing wrong with giving a guy who is hitting below .200 a day off.

    Santana admitted to reporters just a day ago the time spent focusing on playing third base had effected him at the plate.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Preaching to the choir about the stats guys don’t get me wrong stats have a place but by no means do they tell the whole story. And they certainly don’t account for everything especially those variables not included in the equations used to calculate whatever statistic you are looking at.

  • cmm13

    My fault, a day off is one thing; I thought you were suggesting an actual benching.

    Hadn’t heard the Santana interview; from what I’ve seen of him this year he looks like just any other year.

    Would rather send every fastball sent his way over the fence than into play no matter where in the zone it’s thrown.

  • The_Real_Shamrock

    Not a prolonged rest but at least a game, two if necessary.

    I didn’t hear the Santana interview either but Bruce Drennan reported he said it prior to a game in an interview with reporters.