Cleveland’s bats came alive Wednesday night as the Indians clobbered Max Scherzer and the Tigers 9-6 at Comerica Park Wednesday night. The win bumped the Tribe up to 30-25 and closed the White Sox’ division lead to just half a game. Meanwhile, Detroit fell to 25-31, putting the Bengals a season-worst six games under .500.
It didn’t take the Indians long to get on the board. Shin-Soo Choo lined the third pitch of the game into right field for a leadoff single in the top of the first and Carlos Santana also reached on Brennan Boesch‘s error. With two outs and runners at the corners Michael Brantley drove Scherzer’s first pitch out of the park for his first home run of the season to put the Tribe up 3-0.
The Tigers responded in the bottom of third as Don Kelly took Cleveland starter Jeanmar Gomez yard for a solo shot but the Indians struck back in the top of the fourth. Johnny Damon drew a one-out walk, then stole second in advance of Casey Kotchman‘s payoff pitch two-run homer. Even after Miguel Cabrera took Gomez deep in the bottom of the frame Cleveland had a 5-2 lead.
But the Indians really got going in the fifth. Choo, Asdrubal Cabrera, and Jason Kipnis led off the inning with three straight singles to score Choo. After Santana grounded out Scherzer intentionally walked Brantley to load the bases for Damon, who delivered with a two-run single to make it 8-2 Cleveland. As if that wasn’t enough, Choo’s double and Cabrera’s RBI single in the top of the sixth gave the Tribe yet another run.
Detroit didn’t go down without a fight—the Tigers lit Gomez up for four runs in the bottom of the fifth—but the Indians’ offensive outburst gave them more than enough breathing room. Tony Sipp, Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano combined for three perfect innings of relief before Chris Perez shut the Tigers down in the ninth to give the Tribe a 9-6 win and clinch a series victory.
The Good: Johnny Damon was probably the game MVP. In addition to reaching base thrice in four trips to the plate (he went 1-for-2 with two walks, a run, and two RBI), his leaping catch at the left field wall robbed Prince Fielder of a home run in the bottom of the second. Meanwhile, Shin-Soo Choo went 3-for-5 with a double and three runs scored and Michael Brantley and Casey Kotchman—two players who both needed to get something going at the plate—both went yard.
Overall, it was a great showing from Cleveland’s lineup. Scherzer was struggling Wednesday for sure, but you don’t score nine runs by accident. Kudos to the Tribe’s hitters for making Tigers pitchers pay for their mistakes.
The Bad: This is why you don’t judge a pitcher by his record. Jeanmar Gomez had one of the worst outings of his career as Detroit lit him up for six runs (all earned) on seven hits (including two home runs) and a walk in just five innings while failing to record a single strikeout. There’s no shame in having a bad start against the potent Tigers offense, but it was still a disheartening performance for a pitcher who has for the most part been a very pleasant surprise for the Tribe.
The “Huh?”: Michael Brantley (entered the game with a .713 OPS) was hitting fifth for the Tribe Wednesday night. Johnny Damon (.528) hit sixth. Casey Kotchman (.597) hit seventh. It ended up working out in this case, but why give more plate appearances to struggling hitters while burying Matt LaPorta and Lonnie Chisenhall (both of whom had been tearing the cover off the ball in Triple-A Columbus) at the bottom of the order?
Interesting Tidbit: Wednesday was the first time Jeanmar Gomez had ever pitched at least three innings without recording a strikeout. The only other time in 33 career outings that he failed to get a punchout was April 14, when he was ejected from the game in the third inning.