The Tribe continued to dominate Cy Young winners and Ubaldo Jimenez earned his third win of the year as the Indians beat the Tigers 7-6. Justin Verlander lasted only five innings and gave up four runs to Cleveland’s primarily left-handed lineup, falling to 4-3 on the season.
The Indians got to Verlander early, and for the first time all season, he allowed runners to score in the first inning. Nick Swisher stepped in with runners at first and third, and laced an RBI-double to right field that scored Michael Bourn. Verlander followed up with rare consecutive walks to Carlos Santana and Jason Giambi. Giambi’s came with the bases loaded, and marked the third time in Verlander’s career that he walked in a run.
His second inning didn’t go much better. He issued a two-out single to Jason Kipnis, and gave up another right-field double, this time to Asdrubal Cabrera. Kipnis scored all the way from first base, sliding in just ahead of Alex Avila’s tag and putting the Tribe up 3-0.
The Indians capitalized on a Miguel Cabrera throwing error in the fifth inning, tacking on another run. After Swisher walked to leadoff the inning, Santana hit a grounder to first base and Prince Fielder stepped on the bag for the out. Swisher was caught in a rundown between first and second, but Cabrera threw the ball away and he was able to safely reach second base. Mark Reynolds would later single to center field and allow Swisher to score.
It wouldn’t be the last run for the Tribe. Drew Smyly replaced Verlander in the sixth, after the Tigers’ ace reached 110 pitches in just five innings. Bourn singled and stole a base before scoring on Asdrubal Cabrera’s single to left field. In the seventh, Smyly gave up a walk and a base hit before being replaced by Al Alburquerque, and a pinch-hit single by Mike Aviles scored the sixth run of the night. Giambi got the final RBI of the game for the Indians, hitting a sacrifice fly to center field to score Kipnis in the eighth inning.
Meanwhile, Jimenez mystified Detroit’s lineup the entire night. He retired the first six batters in order before giving up a lead-off solo home run to former-Indian Jhonny Peralta. That would be the only run he allowed, despite having runners at second and third with one out in the fourth inning. In six innings, he walked only one batter and allowed just three hits. It was one of his best outings as an Indian, and against one of the toughest lineups in baseball.
The Tribe’s bullpen didn’t fare so well. With a 6-1 lead in the seventh inning, left-hander Nick Hagadone came on in relief and promptly gave up a double to Victor Martinez, followed by two walks to load the bases. Before he could make an out, he was replaced by Cody Allen. Unlike Hagadone, Allen was able to throw strikes — but the Tigers were able to hit them. Brayan Pena hit a sacrifice fly that scored Martinez, and Omar Infante followed with an RBI-triple. Infante then scored on a ground out by Austin Jackson, leaving the Tribe with just a one-run lead.
When Joe Smith came on in the eighth, he had a less eventful outing but still played a dangerous game, hitting a batter and walking one before escaping with an inning-ending double play. Chris Perez earned the save, but it was a perilous one. A fielding error by Swisher allowed Pena to reach base, and Perez would allow two more singles and a run before getting Miguel Cabrera to ground out softly to third base to end the game with just a one-run lead. Despite their struggles, the bullpen did allow Jimenez to keep the win.
The Indians are now in second place in the AL Central, only a game back from the Tigers. Sunday’s match between Zach McAllister and Rick Porcello will decide the winner of the series, and an Indians’ win would put them in a tie for first place.
The Good: Ubaldo Jimenez has remembered how to pitch like an ace. A three-hit, one-walk game is exactly why the Indians traded for him, and he’s strung together enough good outings in a row that it’s time to believe this is a permanent change. Jason Kipnis had stunningly good defense, and going first-to-home to score a crucial run is always impressive. Michael Bourn stole his second base of the season, and isn’t struggling in his return to the lineup after missing so much time. And of course, there are plenty of good things to say about piecing together seven runs without a single home run.
The Bad: Nick Hagadone is walking too many batters without getting any outs, Joe Smith is getting outs but walking too many batters in the process, and the entire city of Cleveland has heart palpitations whenever Chris Perez takes the mound. It’s not that the bullpen isn’t good — they’ve been wonderful so far this season. But they did look shaky tonight. Maybe it’s not having Vinnie Pestano, or maybe it’s because they haven’t gotten to pitch all that often lately…but they need to be a little sharper than that. Giving up a five-run lead isn’t something any team can afford, even one with an offense like the Tribe’s.