Sometimes at the end of the year, you look back on a certain game that—for better or worse—set the tone and forged a path for how the rest of the season would go. If the Indians end up winning the AL Central, Thursday night’s will have been that game after Cleveland staged a huge seventh-inning rally against the great Justin Masterson to get back over .500 (50-49) and knock the Tigers out of first place.
Both teams’ bats got off to hot starts considering this was a game featuring both the reigning AL Cy Young winner and the Tribe’s best pitcher to date, Zach McAllister. Detroit tagged McAllister for an unearned run in the top of first as Austin Jackson singled and advanced to second on Jose Lopez‘ error and scored on Prince Fielder‘s two-out RBI single. The Indians responded immediately in the bottom of the inning as Shin-Soo Choo hit a leadoff double, moved to third on Asdrubal Cabrera‘s groundout, and crossed the plate on Jason Kipnis‘ sacrifice fly to tie the game at 1-1.
The scoring subsided after the turbulent first, but the Tigers got to McAllister again in the middle innings. Alex Avila reached with a leadoff base hit in the top of the fourth and came around to score on Jackson’s RBI single to put Detroit ahead, and Delmon Young‘s solo shot in the sixth made it a 3-1 game.
The Indians were down, but you can bet they weren’t out. Stepping in against Verlander in the bottom of the seventh, Carlos Santana smashed the first pitch he saw into the right field stands for a solo home run. One pitch later, Travis Hafner followed with a homer of his own to tie the game at 3-3. Lopez and Choo followed with singles to put two on with two out and Asdrubal Cabrera delivered with an RBI single to put the Tribe on top. Kipnis added a run-scoring hit of his own as Cleveland jumped out to a 5-3 lead.
The Good: Can you say clutch hitting? For all the flack this team gets for not cashing in on run-scoring opportunities, they deserve credit for putting together a four-run rally against the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP. Remember this night, because at the risk of blowing things out of proportion it might just end up looking like the game that got this team back on track.
Lost in the shuffle here was yet another terrific outing for Zach McAllister. The 24-year-old right-hander held one of the best offenses in the league to just two earned runs on nine hits in 6.1 strong innings pitched, striking out seven while walking two. He gave up another home run and he’s seemed to have had trouble recovering from defensive miscues behind him, but he’s arguably the Tribe’s best pitcher right now.
The Bad: Not much to complain about in a game like this, so I’ll go for Jose Lopez’ first-inning error. It didn’t end up mattering in the end, but it really goes to show what the Indians lose when Hannahan is on the bench.
The “Huh?”: In celebration of a phenomenal game, we’ll forgo this part of the recap and instead offer you video from the seventh inning home runs. Go here to watch the long balls with audio from Tom Hamilton‘s inimitable home run calls.
Interesting Tidbit: Zach McAllister has now allowed 10 unearned runs in 62.1 innings. No other Indians pitcher has more than six this year, and no one else on the staff with fewer than 70 innings pitched has allowed more than one.