Ubaldo Jimenez managed a quality start and the Tribe rallied against Detroit starter Rick Porcello Tuesday night as the Indians (24-18) took the opener of a three-game series against the Tigers (20-22), 5-3.
Cleveland got on the board first. Shin-Soo Choo hit a liner to left field on Porcello’s second pitch of the game for a leadoff single. Jason Kipnis traded places with Choo on his fielder’s choice before Cabrera doubled Kipnis home to give the Tribe a 1-0 lead in the first inning.
It didn’t take long for the Tigers to get back into it. With one out in the top of the second, Brennan Boesch got things started with a double and former Indian Jhonny Peralta worked a walk (the first of six Jimenez allowed). Alex Avila then drove the first pitch he saw over the center field wall. That swing provided all the offense Detroit would get Tuesday night and gave the Tigers a 3-1 lead.
The Indians pecked away at Detroit’s lead in the middle innings. Choo walked, stole second, and advanced to third on Cabrera’s groundout to set himself up to score on Travis Hafner‘s RBI single in the third. It was a similar scene in the bottom of the fifth: Choo led off with a double, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Hafner’s sacrifice fly to tie the game, 3-3.
Cleveland took the lead in the sixth. Michael Brantley led off with a single and swiped second base on the next pitch. Casey Kotchman followed Johnny Damon‘s strikeout with an RBI single to score Brantley, and Jose Lopez gave the Tribe an insurance run by driving in Kotchman with an RBI double to make it 5-3 Indians.
Things got a little too close for comfort in the ninth. Chris Perez took the mound for the first time after his controversial comments this weekend and was welcomed with enthusiastic cheers from the fans at Progressive Field. But Perez walked Ramon Santiago and gave up a single to Andy Dirks to put runners at the corners with one out, making Miguel Cabrera and then Prince Fielder the go-ahead runs at the plate. Luckily, Perez struck out Cabrera and got Fielder to ground out to earn the save as Cleveland held on for the 5-3 win.
The Good: The best part of Tuesday night was that the fans reacted well to Chris Perez. His comments last weekend might have seemed a bit harsh (and were certainly embarrassing to the team), but at the very least the sentiment behind them was perfectly legitimate. It was good to see that the fans aren’t harboring any ill will against him.
Performance-wise, Casey Kotchman (3-for-4 with a double, a run, and an RBI), Shin-Soo Choo (2-for-4 with a double, a walk, and two runs), and Michael Brantley (2-for-4 with a run scored) all had great nights at the plate. And while Perez’ getting into that ninth-inning jam was a bad sign, it was great to see him get out of it without any damage.
The Bad: Ubaldo Jimenez had a rough outing. Sure, he got the win and a quality start. But he also walked six batters in six innings. He had as many strikeouts (two) as he did wild pitches—a bad sign on both counts. For what it’s worth, his WHIP for the game was 1.83 and his FIP was 7.46. The results were good (no one’s going to complain about holding the Tigers to three runs), but that doesn’t change how he got there.
The “Huh?”: Yes, the crowd was enthusiastic, but it was also tiny. Just over 15,000 people showed up to see the two best teams in the division meet for the first time. That’s actually less than the Tribe’s season average. Seriously? On top of the countless other reasons why Indians fans need to start getting their butts in the seats at Progressive Field, our biggest rivals were in town and we just went through a huge media frenzy about the need for more fan support. What is it going to take for Clevelanders to come watch this team?
Interesting Tidbit: Crazy as it seems that the Indians would ever go almost two months without facing the Tigers, this isn’t the first time. As recently as 2007, Cleveland and Detroit did not meet until May 25.