By Christian Petrila
The Indians took the focus from off-the-field issues back to what matters between the foul lines on Tuesday evening, defeating the Detroit Tigers, 5-3. Ubaldo Jimenez survived six innings and gave the Tribe bullpen the lead to clinch and Shin-Soo Choo and Casey Kotchman sparked the offense for the victory.
The Indians opened up the scoring against Rick Porcello in the first inning. Shin-Soo Choo led off the inning with a single. After Jason Kipnis grounded into a fielder’s choice, Asdrubal Cabrera banged a double off the left field wall. Kipnis read the ball off the bat and was off and running. He made it thanks to a combination of his hustle and a terrible cut-off throw from Jhonny Peralta. The Indians managed to get runners on the corners with two outs, but the threat of more offense ended when Michael Brantley grounded out to second.
The Tigers responded with a bang in the second inning. Brennan Boesch smacked a one-out double that went just over the head of Choo in right. After Jhonny Peralta drew a walk, Alex Avila roped a three-run homer that hit the top of the bullpen. Ubaldo settled down and got out of the inning without anymore damage.
The Indians began chipping away in the third inning. Once again, the rally was started by Choo. This time, he drew a leadoff walk. Choo was aggressive on the basepaths as he stole second for his seventh steal of the year. Kipnis struck out, and Cabrera grounded out to third base. Choo was able to advance on the play, since Miguel Cabrera had to make a diving stop. With two outs, Travis Hafner, mired in an 0-13 slump, laced a single to center. End of three, 3-2 Detroit.
The Indians finally got around to tying the game in the fifth. Once again, the rally’s catalyst was none other than Shin-Soo Choo, who slapped a leadoff double to left. A wild pitch moved Choo over to third. After a Kipnis strikeout and a Cabrera walk, Hafner hit a sacrifice fly to center. The offense ended there, but the Indians and Tigers were all tied up at 3-3.
The Indians finally pulled back ahead in the sixth. Michael Brantley, down in the count 0-2, got a leadoff single to land in front of Andy Dirks in left. Brantley continued the trend of Cleveland aggression by stealing second. After Johnny Damon struck out, Casey Kotchman drove Brantley home with a little floater into center. An error on a pickoff attempt allowed Kotchman to advance to second. Jose Lopez made Porcello pay by lacing a double to right field on a ball that bounced off the glove of Boesch in right. Kotchman scored, and the Indians had an insurance run.
The Indians had a chance to add on some more insurance runs in the eighth when they loaded the bases with only one out and Asdrubal Cabrera stepping up. However, Cabrera flew out to rather shallow right and Kotchman tried to tag from third. The throw was perfect and Alex Avila held on to the ball to record the final out and help the Tigers dodge a bullet.
Things got interesting in the ninth, and it wasn’t just because the Tigers were putting a rally together. Chris Perez, making his first appearance since making his comments about being unhappy with the Cleveland fans, was greeted by a rousing ovation from the 15,049 in attendance.
“Our fans appreciate when people want to win and people care and that’s what (Perez) does,” Manny Acta said about the ovation.
He started the inning by getting Don Kelly to fly out to left. After a walk to Ramon Santiago and a single from Andy Dirks, there were runners on the corners with only one out and Miguel Cabrera coming up. Perez didn’t care much for the Detroit third baseman, dispatching him on three pitches, with him looking at a called strike three. Prince Fielder was the next batter up with a chance to be the hero in Detroit, but he grounded out weakly to Jose Lopez.
The win breaks Cleveland’s 10-game losing streak against Detroit, dating back to last season. Jimenez got the win, going six innings, allowing three runs, five hits, while walking six and striking out two. Tony Sipp, Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano all came out of the bullpen to hold down the fort until Chris Perez came in for the ninth.
Rick Porcello gets saddled with the loss forDetroit. He went 5.1 while allowing four earned runs on eight hits while walking three and striking out six.
The win improves Cleveland’s record to 24-18, while Detroit drops to 20-22.
“I still don’t think we have played our best baseball,” Acta said. “Choo is coming alive and (Cabrera) has been there the whole time. Last year was a different story. We couldn’t do anything wrong through the first 45 games.”
The Indians lead Detroit by four games and second-place Chicago by 3.5.
Photo: Jason Miller/Getty Images