Tribe Bats Wake Up, but Provide Too Little Too Late; Tigers 5, Indians 4
Bob Toth | On 14, Sep 2018
The Indians tied the game in the sixth inning with back-to-back home runs, but left the tying run at second base in the bottom of the ninth in a 5-4 loss to the Detroit Tigers on Friday night.
With a chance to potentially clinch the American League Central Division in the first game of a nine-game homestand, the Indians were unable to come through with a big hit in the ninth inning with runners in scoring position, continuing some recent woes in those opportunities. Tigers closer Shane Greene walked a tight rope in the final frame, giving up two runs, but holding the last runner at second to secure the win and the save.
The Tigers took the lead on the first batter of the game as home run pitching machine Josh Tomlin, making his first start since May 15, gave up a leadoff blast to Jeimer Candelario before some fans had even arrived to their seats, giving Detroit the early 1-0 lead. Tomlin worked around a further jam after allowing a walk and a single to the next two hitters before getting three straight outs in the air.
Cleveland struggled against southpaw Matthew Boyd, as he put on a pitching display in the early going. He got out of his own jam in the first after Francisco Lindor singled to left and moved all the way to third on an error by the left fielder, but three strikeouts of the next four hitters left the All-Star shortstop standing at third. Boyd struck out two more in the second, another in the third, and one in the fourth.
In the top of the fourth with Tomlin still on the mound, the Tigers used a pair of extra base hits to add to their lead. Jim Adduci hit a leadoff double and, after a pop out by James McCann, JaCoby Jones doubled to left to plate the second run of the game.
Boyd retired the side in order in the fifth, bringing a one-hit shutout into the sixth. Jose Ramirez started the inning with a fly ball to left, but Edwin Encarnacion crushed the next pitch over the left field wall to make it a 2-1 game. Boyd missed on the next three offerings to Josh Donaldson, but with a green light on a 3-0 pitch, he sent a cloud-scraping fly ball onto the Home Run Porch to tie the game at two while sending Boyd to the showers.
The newly tied game did not last long. Adam Cimber came back out for a second inning to begin the top of the seventh, but he gave up a leadoff double to Dawel Lugo. Pete Kozma sacrificed him over to third, bringing manager Terry Francona to the mound for Andrew Miller. He was unable to stop the Tigers’ attack, giving up a first pitch double to Candelario to put Detroit back up by one. He was erased on a fielder’s choice to third for the second out, but a walk by Nick Castellanos and a double to center by Victor Martinez pushed across a second run to give the Tigers a 4-2 lead.
An odd play led to what proved to be the deciding run in the eighth against Neil Ramirez. McCann struck out swinging to start the inning before Jones reached on an infield single to first and later stole second. Lugo struck out on a ball that shot between the legs of catcher Yan Gomes to the backstop. The All-Star retrieved the ball and fired to first to retire Lugo, but the alert and aggressive Jones did not stop at third and sprinted to the plate. The throw from first baseman Yandy Diaz to Ramirez at the plate arrived in plenty of time, but Ramirez’s foot work was poor as he was in no position to turn to tag Jones sliding safely headfirst across the plate to make it 5-2.
After Joe Jimenez retired the side in order in the bottom of the eighth, the bats got going in the ninth after tallying just three hits to that point. Donaldson blooped a single to center off of the closer Greene and was lifted for Erik Gonzalez. Pinch-hitter Yonder Alonso singled high off of the wall in left to put runners on the corners. Melky Cabrera lofted a sacrifice fly to center to score Gonzalez to make it 5-3. Gomes singled perfectly through the right side of the infield, putting runners on the corners again. Jason Kipnis grounded to first, where Ronny Rodriguez juggled a potential double play ball before settling for just the out at first. Alonso scored and pinch-runner Rajai Davis moved to second on the play with the score now 5-4. Lindor stepped to the plate with a chance to play the hero, but he sent a 2-1 pitch to right where Castellanos secured the catch to end the game.
The Tigers (60-87) ended their four-game losing skid while preventing the Indians (82-65) an opportunity to clinch the division in the series opener. The Indians’ magic number did drop to one later in the night, as the Minnesota Twins fell to the Kansas City Royals.
Boyd took a tough no-decision despite holding the Indians to one hit through the first five innings. He left after retiring one in the sixth following the consecutive homers by Encarnacion and Donaldson (the first time the long-time teammates had homered in back-to-back at bats in their career). He allowed two runs on three hits with two walks and seven strikeouts. Drew VerHagen got two outs on three pitches and was credited with the win, while Greene’s save was his 29th.
Tomlin worked four innings in his longest appearance since returning from the disabled list. He allowed two runs on five hits with a walk and two strikeouts. Cimber was dealt with the loss after Miller allowed the inherited runner to score in the seventh.
The Indians went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position as their issues in prime scoring chances continued Friday.
Game two of the series is set for an unusual 3:10 PM ET start on Saturday. A pair of right-handers, Detroit’s Michael Fulmer (3-11, 4.56 ERA) and Cleveland’s Mike Clevinger (11-8, 3.16), will square off in the middle game. Fulmer has fought through a tough season and dealt with injuries. He has not earned a win since June 14. Clevinger worked a quality start his last time out, but took the loss in Toronto against the Blue Jays.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images