Ubaldo Jimenez enjoyed one of his finest starts of the season and the Indians combined to collect a hat trick of triples as the Tribe beat the Tigers, 4-2, in the opener of a three-game series at Comerica Park. The win bumps Cleveland’s record to 29-25 as we hit the one-third mark of the 2012 season and cuts the White Sox’ division lead to just 1.5 games, while Detroit falls to 25-30—the first time this year that the Tigers have been five games under .500.
At first it looked like this game was not going to go well for Cleveland. Detroit starter Drew Smyly struck out the side in the top of the first, while Jimenez really struggled in the bottom of the first. He hit Quintin Berry with his fourth pitch of the game for a leadoff beanball. Berry then stole second and came home on Miguel Cabrera‘s RBI double to give the Tigers an early 1-0 lead.
The Indians offered their delayed response in the top of the third. Lou Marson got things started with a one-out single before trading places with Shin-Soo Choo on his fielder’s choice. With two outs and a runner on first, Asdrubal Cabrera roped Smyly’s 1-0 pitch into center for an RBI triple (the first of three the Tribe would collect Tuesday night) to tie the score, 1-1.
The scoring continued in the fifth. Matt LaPorta started it off with a leadoff single before Lonnie Chisenhall took his place on a fielder’s choice. Marson ripped Smyly’s 0-1 offering for an RBI triple to score Chisenhall; he then scored on Choo’s base hit. Then in the sixth, Shelley Duncan‘s two-out walk set the stage for Michael Brantley‘s RBI triple, which put the Tribe ahead 4-1.
Meanwhile Jimenez kept Detroit’s bats quiet until the seventh inning, when he handed the ball to Nick Hagadone; he and Vinnie Pestano preserved the lead for Chris Perez. The Tigers didn’t go quietly in the bottom of the ninth—Delmon Young‘s single and Jhonny Peralta‘s double brought the tying run to the plate and Brennan Boesch‘s sacrifice fly brought home a run—but Perez closed it out for the save as the Tribe came out with a 4-2 victory.
The Good: Can you say Ubaldo? Jimenez held a potent Tigers offense to just one run on five hits across 6.2 innings, striking out four while walking just one (plus a hit by pitch). He still didn’t look like the pitcher he once was—a year ago, getting only four punchouts in almost seven frames would have been the sign of a bad day—but he looked far more in command Tuesday than he had earlier this year, especially considering his rough first inning. Apparently, his extra rest did him some good.
Meanwhile at the plate, Lou Marson went 2-for-4 with a triple and Michael Brantley went 1-for-2 with a triple and two walks. Plus Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo each made a fantastic play in the ninth inning to help preserve the lead.
The Bad: Nothing much to complain about from this game. The only real blemish was that the Tigers made it a game against Chris Perez in the bottom of the ninth. After your fireman enters the game with a three-run lead, if the other team bringing the tying run to the plate it means it’s too close for comfort. Beyond that, the heart of the order (Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Shelley Duncan) went hitless—0-for-11 with a walk and three strikeouts—but the Indians got more than enough offense from the rest of the lineup.
The “Huh?”: It seems like a plurality of my comments here have to do with Manny Acta‘s choice of players or how he filled out the batting order, so I feel obligated to use this space to announce my complete and utter satisfaction with Tuesday night’s lineup: Shin-Soo Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, Jason Kipnis, Carlos Santana, Shelley Duncan, Michael Brantley, Matt LaPorta, Lonnie Chisenhall, Lou Marson.
Choo leading off is terrific. Kipnis and Cabrera were great when they were hitting second and third, respectively, but putting Cabrera ahead of Kipnis is even better. Duncan got to feature prominently in the middle of the order, and that he played at all is a step in the right direction. Perhaps one could quibble with the order from Brantley down, but there are no major objections to be made. Given the current roster limitations, this may be my favorite lineup Acta has constructed this year.
Interesting Tidbit: Per Paul Hoynes, Tuesday was the first time in more than 10 years that the Indians tripled thrice in one game. The last time was April 7, 2002—also against the Tigers at Comerica Park.