Avila, Homers Make Detroit Late Inning Victors; Tigers 5, Indians 4
Mike B. | On 13, Sep 2014
One breath at a time.
With just over two weeks remaining in the season, the Cleveland Indians may not have much life remaining in their playoff hopes, and one of those final breaths may have been taken Saturday night. Alex Avila hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the eighth inning off Bryan Shaw to give the Tigers a 5-4 victory, extending the Tigers’ lead in the division over the Indians to 5.5 games. With just 15 games remaining in the season, it may be too much for the Tribe to overcome.
Mike Aviles hit a go-ahead double in the fifth inning with two outs and Danny Salazar tossed five and two-third innings to put the Indians ahead. Salazar out-pitched youngster, Kyle Lobstein, in a duel of young starting pitchers to put the Indians in position to even the series and gain ground in the playoff race. However, Avila’s homer wrecked the plans that were laid for the first seven and a half innings.
The Tribe jumped on top in the top of the first inning on some hustle and power. Michael Bourn started the game with a hustle double off Lobstein, stretching a single into a double. After Mike Aviles bunted Bourn to third base, Michael Brantley hit his 19th homer of the season, a blast into the right field seats. Brantley’s blast staked the Indians to a 2-0 lead after the first inning.
Detroit answered back in the bottom of the third inning to even the score. Nick Castellanos started the inning with a single, but was cut down at second base on a fielder’s choice when Andrew Romine’s bunt was too hard back to Salazar. Rajai Davis singled to move Romine from first to third and Ian Kinsler singled to center field to put the Tigers on the board. Torii Hunter hit a sacrifice fly to right field and Detroit had tied the game at two.
In the bottom of the fourth the Tigers took the lead when Victor Martinez haunted his old franchise, crushing a 96-mph fastball into the right field seats. His 31st home run of the season was a solo shot, but gave the Tigers a 3-2 lead.
Cleveland again ran out in front in the top of the fifth inning and ended Lobstein’s night. After an out was recorded Lonnie Chisenhall and Jesus Aguilar hit back-to-back singles, then advanced to scoring position when Bourn grounded out to first base. With two out, and two on, Aviles doubled down the right field line to plate both base runners and give the Indians the lead again, 4-3.
The two runs in the fifth inning ended Lobstein’s night. He pitched five innings, giving up four runs on six hits and a walk, while striking out two. The Indians had much more success against Lobstein then they did two weeks ago when he held them to just two runs.
Salazar found himself in a fifth inning jam, but was able to protect the lead. Castellanos started the inning with a double and Romine singled, however, Castellanos did not advance on the hit to left field. With runners on first and second, Davis bunted the two runners to scoring position. Salazar found a way out of the jam, getting Kinsler to line out to shortstop and Hunter to fly out to right field. It was the 12th straight time Salazar has held the opponent in the inning after Cleveland has scored.
Salazar pitched five and two-third innings, allowing three runs on six hits and a walk, while striking out seven. Marc Rzepczynski walked Alex Avila before Scott Atchison finished the sixth inning and pitched a scoreless seventh inning.
In the eighth Shaw (5-4) allowed a leadoff walk to Miguel Cabrera. Ezequiel Carrera pinch ran for Cabrera, but it looked like it might not matter when Shaw set down Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez for the first two outs. But, Avila crushed a fastball with two strikes into the right field seats, giving the Tigers the lead and possibly ending the Tribe’s playoff hopes. Avila’s 11th homer of the year gave the Tigers a 5-4 lead.
Joe Nathan came on to pitch the ninth inning, earning his 31st save of the season, setting down the Tribe in order. Joba Chamberlain (2-5) pitched a scoreless eighth inning to earn the victory in relief for Detroit. Cleveland is now 76-71 on the season, while Detroit improves to 82-66.
The loss makes Cleveland’s playoff hopes look bleak. Trailing by 5.5 games in the division with only 15 games remaining, the Indians will need to win Sunday before heading to Houston for four games. Cleveland is in a position where they need to win Sunday to make back a game against the division leader and will probably need to sweep in Houston for any kind of chance to make the final dozen games matter.
Cleveland will try to start their newest late-season, winning streak on Sunday when Trevor Bauer (5-8, 4.12) will take on Detroit’s Justin Verlander (13-12, 4.82) during the matinee. Detroit will look to sweep the Tribe and end their season, while the Indians will be looking for one last gasp of life in their season of Unfinished Business.
Photo: Carlos Osorio/AP Photo