A valiant comeback attempt ended up to be for naught Sunday afternoon as the Cleveland Indians dropped their ninth straight game as the Tigers shocked the Tribe with a 10th-inning walkoff 10-8 win to complete the three-game series sweep. The loss knocks the Indians down to 50-58, a whopping 9.5 games out of first place in the AL Central.
The game had started out well for Cleveland. Asdrubal Cabrera got things going with a one-out double off Detroit starter Max Scherzer in the top of the first. Carlos Santana‘s walk put two on with two outs for Michael Brantley and Travis Hafner, who turned back-to-back Scherzer pitches into RBI singles to put the Tribe ahead 2-0. Prince Fielder‘s RBI single off Chris Seddon put the Tigers on the board in the bottom of the frame, but with a full inning in the books the Indians actually held the lead.
The score started to see-saw in the middle innings. Shin-Soo Choo made it a 3-1 game with his solo home run in the top of the third, but the Tigers got the run back on Miguel Cabrera‘s RBI groundout in the bottom of the inning and Alex Avila‘s fourth-inning RBI single tied the game. Santana’s RBI single in the fifth put the Tribe on top again, but Omar Infante erased the deficit with a leadoff long ball in the home half of the frame.
The back-and-forth continued in the seventh as Travis Hafner hit an RBI single and Prince Fielder responded with a sacrifice fly. Austin Jackson led off the bottom of the ninth with a triple to put the winning run 90 feet away, and after striking out Omar Infante Josh Tomlin walked Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder to load the bases with one out. Manny Acta called for a five-man infield play, and Tomlin got Quintin Berry to ground into a double play and send the game into extras.
The Indians rode that momentum into the top of the 10th. With Joaquin Benoit on the mound for his second inning of work, Hafner and Ezequiel Carrera hit back-to-back solo home runs to put the Tribe on top. A Jack Hannahan single and a Lou Marson double later, Cleveland had jumped out to an 8-5 lead and the Tigers were on the ropes.
Chris Perez took the mound in the bottom of the 10th and got two quick outs, but the game wasn’t over yet. With the Tribe one out away from victory, Perez walked Alex Avila and Andy Dirks to set the stage for Austin Jackson’s RBI double, which put the tying run in scoring position. Omar Infante stepped to the plate and delivered with a two-run single before Miguel Cabrera ended it with a walkoff two-run blast as the Indians lost a heartbreaker, 10-8.
The Good: Eight runs is a pretty darn good showing for an offense that’s stuck in neutral, especially considering the clutch rallies the Indians put together in a close game. Michael Brantley reached base four times, going 3-for-4 with two doubles and a walk. Travis Hafner also had a multihit game (3-for-5 with a home run), as did newly minted left fielder Ezequiel Carrera (3-for-5 with a home run). It’s only one game, but it sure is nice to see some offense in left field.
Meanwhile, Vinnie Pestano threw two perfect innings in relief, fanning three Tigers in the seventh and eighth to keep the game close for the Tribe.
The Bad: There’s no getting around Chris Perez’ meltdown. Per FanGraphs (see above chart) he Indians had a greater-than 95 percent chance of winning when he took the mound in the bottom of the 10th. After Brennan Boesch grounded out, the Tigers had 1 in 200 odds of coming back. An 8-5 game turned into a 10-8 loss in three batters—there’s no way to put a positive spin on that.
But before Perez entered the game, we saw an underwhelming debut from Triple-A call-up Chris Seddon. The 28-year-old lefty got rocked for four runs (all earned) on seven hits in just 4.1 innings. He walked three and struck out only two—not exactly confidence-inspiring for a guy who hasn’t pitched in the majors in almost two years.
The “Huh?”: Ezequiel Carrera is a fantastic athlete who appears to have great range in the outfield. Michael Brantley, meanwhile, is a good left fielder who still doesn’t seem fully comfortable in center. Wouldn’t it make more sense to put Carrera in center and Brantley in left than to banish Carrera to a corner spot and leave Brantley in the middle?
Interesting Tidbit: The Indians are now eight games under .500 for the first time since 2010.