A solid start from Zach McAllister, a huge outing from Vinnie Pestano, and some late-inning magic were exactly what the Indians needed last night against the Tigers as the Tribe (25-18) bested Detroit (20-23), 4-2.
There wasn’t much action in the first half of the game. Both McAllister and Detroit starter Doug Fister looked sharp and took shutouts into the sixth inning before the Tigers finally broke the stalemate. Quintin Berry led off the inning with an unusual bunt double. Andy Dirks brought Berry in with an RBI double and scored himself on Price Fielder’s fielder’s choice two batters later. But the lead didn’t last long as Travis Hafner took Fister yard for a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning.
The Tigers made the Indians sweat in both the seventh and eighth innings. Detroit loaded the bases in the seventh against McAllister and Nick Hagadone with two outs to bring up Miguel Cabrera, but Joe Smith was able to induce an inning-ending groundout. The situation was even more dire in the eighth as the Tigers loaded the bases with nobody out against Tony Sipp and Pestano, but Pestano came up with three huge outs—including two strikeouts—to kill the rally with no damage done.
The Tribe put on their rally caps for the eighth. After Shin-Soo Choo flied out to start the inning, Jason Kipnis singled off Tigers reliever Phil Coke and Asdrubal Cabrera followed with a double. Kipnis scored on Hafner’s fielder’s choice to give the Indians the lead, and they got an insurance run as Carlos Santana‘s sacrifice fly. Chris Perez pitched a perfect ninth to give the Tribe the 4-2 victory.
The Good: Vinnie Pestano’s nerves of steel. The Indians had just a 21 percent chance of winning (per FanGraphs’ WPA) when Jhonny Peralta stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the eighth inning. Pestano struck out Peralta on three pitches, got Ramon Santiago to hit a weak grounder to first, and rung up Alex Avila with a called strike on a 3-2 count. When he finally walked off the mound, the Tribe’s chances of winning had improved to 61 percent.
Zach McAllister also had a solid outing, holding the Tigers to two runs on eight hits in 6.1 innings; though his three strikeouts were a little underwhelming, he made up for it by not allowing a single walk. Offensively Jason Kipnis had the biggest day, going 3-for-4 with a pair of runs scored.
The Bad: It wasn’t a banner night for the bullpen. Though Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano were able to get out of big jams, it’s somewhat discouraging that they were in big jams in the first place. Between Zach McAllister’s exit and the eighth-inning tension, it took four relief pitchers (Hagadone, Smith, Sipp, and Pestano) to record three outs. If you’re wondering the Indians’ bullpen has been overworked this year, it’s things like this.
The “Huh?”: With Michael Brantley at the plate and two outs in the bottom of the eighth, Shelley Duncan, who was at first base pinch-running for Travis Hafner, took off for second. Despite his title as “pinch-runner” Duncan is not a very fast player, a fact that should not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever seen him play. The only justification I can come up with for him trying to steal second is that Manny Acta had dinner reservations and he wanted to end the inning quickly.
Interesting Tidbit: Duncan’s steal attempt was just the third time he’s tried to swipe a base in his MLB career. He’s 1-for-3 in stolen base attempts lifetime.