Four Run Seventh Off Verlander Secures Win and Series for Tribe; Indians 5, Tigers 3
By Bob Toth
After being held in check by Detroit’s starter Justin Verlander for six innings, Cleveland’s offense erupted for four runs in the seventh, including back-to-back home runs by Carlos Santana and Travis Hafner, as the Indians took two of three from the Tigers in a key 5-3 victory.
The Tigers struck in the first inning against Indians’ starter, Zach McAllister. Austin Jackson hit a slow roller to third baseman Jose Lopez, who made a barehanded grab but threw wide of first trying to get the speedy Jackson. The errant throw went down the right field line into foul territory and enabled Jackson to move up to second base. McAllister settled in and promptly struck out Quintin Berry and Miguel Cabrera, but Prince Fielder, first pitch swinging, sent a grounder through the hole on the left side of the infield, scoring Jackson from second and giving the Tigers an early 1-0 lead. The Tigers would force 30 pitches in the inning from the young Indians’ pitcher.
The Indians countered in the bottom half of the first inning. Shin-Soo Choo swung at the first pitch of the game by Detroit’s ace, Justin Verlander (11-6), and drilled a double off of the wall in center field. Asdrubal Cabrera moved him to third on a groundout to first, and Jason Kipnis sent a hard-hit sacrifice fly to the wall in left to tie the game at 1-1.
Detroit reclaimed the lead in the top of the fourth. Alex Avila led off the inning with a single to right-center. Ramon Santiago nearly hit Avila with a batted ball to second baseman Kipnis, but Avila put the brakes on long enough to avoid being hit and was able to advance to second as Santiago was thrown out. Omar Infante popped out to Kipnis for the second out. Jackson, a thorn in the Indians’ side all series, singled to left for his third hit in as many at bats, driving in Avila to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead. Jackson was caught in a run down between first and second to end the inning while trying to advance on the throw to the plate.
The Indians would put two runners on base in the bottom half of the fourth, but were again unable to drive in runners in scoring position. Kipnis drew a leadoff walk, working Verlander for ten pitches, including five straight foul balls after Kipnis was ahead in the count 3-1. Brantley followed with a bloop single to left field, putting runners on first and second with nobody out. The rally though was immediately interrupted by Santana, who grounded to Fielder at first to start the 3-6-1 double play. Kipnis advanced to third, but was stranded there as Verlander retired Hafner on a groundout to short.
Delmon Young extended the Tigers’ lead to 3-1 in the top of the sixth off of McAllister. Young drove the first pitch of the inning the opposite way over the wall in right field and into the seats for his eleventh home run on the season. It was the seventh homer allowed by the Indians’ pitcher. McAllister did not allow the big hit to rattle him, as he retired the side in order afterwards, including two strong strikeouts to end the frame.
McAllister would leave in the seventh after giving up a one-out walk to Jackson and a single to right off of the glove of Kipnis by Berry. McAllister lasted six and one-third innings, striking out seven and walking two. He gave up three runs, two of which were earned, over nine hits.
“McAllister was great again,” Indians’ manager Manny Acta said. “Every five days he gives us an opportunity to win. He didn’t look like he was going to be able to stay up there too long because of the pitch count; they fouled off a lot of his pitches. But then he got into a groove after the third inning.”
Joe Smith (7-2) came on in relief and induced the inning-ending double-play grounder by Miguel Cabrera, ending the potential Tigers’ threat.
“The most important play of the game, defense-wise,” Acta said, regarding the double play ball. “Our bullpen was huge, but Joe’s double play was the most important thing. Then after that, he gave us an opportunity to come back.”
With momentum swinging to their side, the Indians struck hard in the seventh. On the first pitch of the inning, Santana swung and smashed the high Verlander fastball into the seats in right for his eighth home run, cutting the lead to one. On the very next pitch, Hafner cleared the First Energy sign on the wall in right to tie the game at three with his tenth home run of the year.
Lopez kept the offense going with a single to right field on an 0-2 pitch. Verlander recovered to retire Kotchman and Duncan on fly balls to the outfield.
A rare piece of two-out magic then began for the Indians. Choo singled to left, moving Lopez to second. Cabrera, first strike swinging, singled to right field, scoring the go-ahead run on the play. Cabrera alertly moved to second base with no Tigers player covering the bag. Kipnis hit a liner to short, but it went off of the glove of Santiago for the Indians’ third consecutive single. Choo scored on the play to give the Indians a 5-3 lead. Nine men would bat on the inning for the Tribe.
Verlander pitched seven innings for Detroit, giving up five earned runs on nine hits, walking a pair, and striking out four. He had allowed just three hits through the first six innings and had thrown 14 straight first-pitch strikes until the Indians’ offensive explosion in the seventh.
“We wanted to stay aggressive the whole time,” Kipnis said. “Guys stayed aggressive. Hitting became infectious.”
“Being able to come back against a guy like Verlander is tremendous,” Acta said. “We were trying to be aggressive with him. Our big guys stepped up today and two quick home runs and two fastballs tied up the game. Guys continued to put up quality at bats.”
Chris Perez came on in the ninth. After a leadoff double by Avila, Santiago struck out. Infante followed with a four-pitch walk to bring Jackson to the plate. Perfect on the game with three singles and a walk in four plate appearances, he grounded to short. Cabrera flipped to Kipnis for the force at second, but the relay throw to first was ruled not in time, keeping the inning alive on the fielder’s choice. Berry stepped in, entering with two strikeouts in three career at bats against Perez, and added to that total by striking out to end the game. It was Perez’s 29th save in 31 chances on the season.
“Our bullpen was the difference. They were terrific,” Acta said. “Smith had probably the most impact with that double play ball. That really was huge for us. The next two guys, they just did what they have done for us all season.”
The Indians are now 7-2 against Detroit overall on the season and 5-1 at Progressive Field. Six of the seven wins have been by a margin of two runs or less. The tandem of Pestano and Perez have appeared in all seven of these victories, with Perez claiming a save in each.
“These guys learned a lot from what happened here last year,” Acta said. “It’s a huge win because of who we’re playing.”
The Indians (50-49) finish their seven-game homestand, easily the biggest of the season thus far, at 3-4, but took two of three from Detroit. They now trail AL Central-leading Chicago by three and one-half games. The Tigers (53-46) now trail the White Sox by one-half of a game and drop to .500 on the road at 25-25.
The Indians head to the Twin Cities to take on the Minnesota Twins to start a ten-game road trip Friday night. Right-hander Josh Tomlin (5-7, 5.34) will make the start for the Tribe. He lost his only start of the season versus the Twins on June 2nd, giving up five runs in six innings of work.
Left-hander Scott Diamond (8-4, 3.16) will oppose. He is 1-0 on the season versus the Tribe, giving up three unearned runs on seven hits in seven innings of a 4-1 win by the Twins on June 3rd.
Game time from Minneapolis is 8:10 pm ET. The game will be broadcast on SportsTimeOhio and the Cleveland Indians radio network.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak