Can’t Quite Come All The Way Back; Tigers 8, Indians 7
By Craig Gifford
A weekend series that began with such high hopes for the Cleveland Indians ended in complete despair and has put the Tribe in a bit of a hole in the A.L. Central Division.
When the Indians arrived at Comerica Park to play the first-place Tigers on Friday night, they were a mere 1.5 games out of the top spot. However, following Sunday’s 8-7 loss and sweep at the hands of Detroit, the Indians now come home out of it by a much wider 4.5 games.
Whereas the offense could do nothing in the first two games, scoring all of a pair of runs, that was not the issue on Sunday. The issue, much like the case on Saturday was the starting pitching. Just as David Huff struggled in giving up five runs in 2.2 innings on Saturday, recently acquired ace Ubaldo Jimenez faired no better on Sunday.
Jimenez was lit up by the Tigers offese for all eight runs, every one of them earned, in 3.1 innings of work. The third frame proved to be his undoing, yielding seven runs in the inning. After three Tigers has already scored, Delmon Young put a bit of an exclamation on the inning with a three-run home run, to make the score 6-0. Two batters later, former Indian Victor Martinez hit a blast of his own to cap off the scoring for the inning.
In the top of the fourth the Tribe bats finally came to life, getting the Indians back in the game with a five-spot of their own. Carlos Santana got the scoring going with solo shot, his 19th homer of the season. Lou Marson later delivered an RBI single, followed up by a two-run double from Michael Brantley. A wild pitch allowed Brantley to score, pulling the Indians within two.
Jimenez, could not keep the momentum going, allowing another run in the home half of the fourth. Delmon Young RBI hit closed the books on a second straight bad outing for Jimenez, making the big trade deadline deal look all the shakier.
The bullpen, as has been the case most of the year, came in and slammed the door the rest of the way. Joe Smith, Vinnie Pestano and Tony Sipp combined for 4.2 scoreless innings. The trio gave up just two more hits the rest of the way.
Cleveland’s bats nearly made the effort from the pen a winning a one. An RBI from Jack Hanahan in the fifth and run-scoring single from Travis Hafner in the sixth had the Indians within a single talley. It was not to be, however. The Tigers got a winning performance from three relievers of their own, starting with Phil Coke and Joaquin Benoit stopping the Tribe scoring. Closer Jose Velverde, as he has done all year, slammed the door in the ninth for his 37th save of the season.
However, this save was not an easy one. The never-say-die Tribe put two runners on with no one out in the final stanza. Kosuke Fukudome walked to begin the night and Jason Donald was hit by a pitch. Hanahan sacrifice bunted both runners into scoring position with one out. That is when the Indians had their hearts broken. Matt LaPorta, pinch hitting for Marson, sent a line drive to Center Field. The ball was caught by Austin Jackson. Fukudome, attempting tag up at third and tie the game, was gunned down, sending the Tigers home with a win and sweep of the Tribe.
The Indians, with 39 games remaining are certainly not out of it, but time is dwindling. The Tribe will look to get back on another hot streak when it returns home to face a struggling Seattle Mariners club for three games starting Monday. Fausto Carmona, who began the year as the Indians’ ace will look to stop the bleeding when he takes the mound at a 7:05 start time.
Photo: Leon Halip/Getty Images