Brantley Smooth, Saves Tribe Bullpen and Win; Indians 9, Tigers 6
Bob Toth | On 07, Jul 2013
In the first game after a players’ meeting following ugly losses to the Detroit Tigers on Friday and Saturday, the Cleveland Indians offense provided some solid run support and starter Corey Kluber provided the team with a dominating quality start. The bullpen, however, must not have been present for the meeting.
Thankfully for the Indians and their fans, Michael Brantley had a career day at the plate, including the go-ahead two-run home run in the bottom of the eighth to give the Indians a 9-6 win.
The Tigers struck in the eighth inning against setup man Vinnie Pestano, who entered the game with a 6-3 lead. A leadoff walk by Andy Dirks was followed by an infield single by Alex Avila. Ramon Santiago grounded into a fielder’s choice, forcing Avila at second, for the first out. Austin Jackson looked overmatched, striking out for the second out, but Torii Hunter jumped on a pitch and crushed a game-tying three-run home run to the Home Run Porch in left. After two more singles to Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder, Cody Allen (4-1) relieved Pestano and struck out Victor Martinez swinging to end the threat.
In the bottom of the eighth, Nick Swisher drew a leadoff walk against Al Alburquerque (1-2). With one swing, Brantley gave the Indians the lead back. His monster home run to the seats in right was his second of the day and gave him a career-high five runs batted in. A sacrifice fly by Drew Stubbs several batters later pushed the lead to 9-6.
“Swisher did a great job of getting in front of me and getting a good walk,” said Brantley. “I just really tried to be aggressive in that situation. We’re going to keep going and keep grinding until the last out of the game. It’s a team effort around here. It’s going to take all 25 guys to do it this year and we knew that.”
“Good teams pick each other up,” said Swisher. “Bad teams pick each other apart.”
Chris Perez allowed a single to Jhonny Peralta to lead off the ninth, but struck out Dirks looking before inducing an unconventional 3-6-3 double play, with Swisher stepping on the bag at first and later applying the tag to Peralta in a rundown between first and second to end it. It was the ninth save of the season for Perez.
The Tigers struck for first blood on the day, and it was little surprise that it was Cabrera doing the damage. After two outs were retired by Kluber in the first, Cabrera drove an inside fastball deep into the bleachers in left to give Detroit a 1-0 lead. It was the 28th home run of the season for the reigning Triple Crown winner.
The Indians, however, equaled their entire offensive output through the first two games of the series in the bottom half of the frame. After Detroit starter Doug Fister retired the first two batters, Jason Kipnis drew a walk, one day removed from the end of his streak of reaching base successfully. Swisher followed with a walk after working the count full from an 0-2 hole. Brantley, after fouling off several pitches, delivered a deep fly ball to left that landed over the head of left fielder Dirks and bounced off of the wall, scoring both Kipnis and Swisher to give the Indians an early 2-1 lead.
The next batter, catcher Carlos Santana, lined a 1-0 pitch over the wall in right-center field to plate another pair. A groundout from Mark Reynolds ended the inning, but the Indians were on top, 4-1, courtesy of Santana’s eleventh home run on the season.
Leading off the bottom of the second, Lonnie Chisenhall sat back on a big curveball and belted it down the right field line. It glanced off of the foul pole for his fifth home run of the season and his second since his recall from Columbus. The solo shot increased the Indians lead to 5-1.
Brantley pushed the advantage to 6-1 with another RBI to lead off the sixth. Down in the count 1-2, he drove a fastball from Fister into the seats in right field for his first home run on the game. It was just the second hit for the Indians since the second inning, when Stubbs had followed the Chisenhall homer with an infield single.
“Wherever we put him,” said Francona regarding Brantley, “he gives you an at bat. And lately, he’s hit a few balls out of the ball park to boot.”
Kluber came out for the seventh, despite being over 100 pitches on the afternoon. A groundout and a double later, he was replaced by Joe Smith on the mound. Smith was not as sharp as Terry Francona may have hoped, as he allowed back-to-back singles to Jackson and Hunter to score inherited runner Santiago. A fourth straight hit in the inning, a line drive single to right by Cabrera, cut the Tigers deficit in half at 6-3.
Smith got the dangerous Fielder to pop out softly to third for the inning’s second out, but he followed it with a walk to Martinez to load the bases. The next pitch, to Peralta, was weakly flied to right fielder Stubbs to end the threat with the bases loaded.
Kluber gave the Indians everything they needed on the afternoon. He worked six and one-third innings and limited the Tigers to just two runs on five hits. He walked three and tied a career-high with ten strikeouts, equaling his mark against Boston on May 26th. He had stopped several Indians losing streaks this season. When pitching after a Cleveland loss, his record as a starter remains 4-1 in seven opportunities.
“He threw the ball very well,” said Brantley regarding Kluber. “He kept the ball down, kept them off balance. He’s been throwing the ball so well for us all year. He’s a big part of our starting lineup.”
“He got a lot of broken bats. He stayed ahead in the count. He was aggressive. He was really good,” said Francona. “When you start throwing in with your best velocity, that’s very impressive.”
Fister’s pitching line was full of multiples of three. He exited the game after six innings and allowed six runs, all earned, on six hits. He walked three and allowed the three home runs to Santana, Chisenhall, and Brantley. On the base paths, the Indians became just the second team to ever steal two bases against him in one game (last time – July 29, 2012 versus Toronto). He struck out four.
With the comeback win, the Indians (46-42) shrink the gap in the AL Central behind the Tigers (48-39) to two and a half games. The victory ends their losing skid at four, while the loss for Detroit ended their five-game winning streak.
Prior to the game, the Indians designated Carlos Carrasco for assignment in order to send him to Columbus. Rookie Preston Guilmet joined the bullpen in his place. Lou Marson was transferred from the 15-day disabled list to the 60-day disabled list to make room on the 40-man roster for Guilmet.
Undefeated Max Scherzer (13-0, 3.09 ERA) will take aim at win number 14 as he opposes Indians lefty, Scott Kazmir (4-4, 4.86) in the series finale between the two clubs on Monday. The Tigers are 14-3 in games started by Scherzer.
First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM. The game will be televised on Fox Sports SportsTime Ohio and air on the Cleveland Indians Radio Network.
Photo: AP Photo/Tony Dejak