And so the narrative continues. The Detroit Tigers come to town and one game after another they find ways to rip the hearts out of the Cleveland faithful. Whether it be coming from behind in the ninth like they did on Monday, or finding a way to rough up the Indians’ ace like they did on Tuesday night, the Tigers just continue to find ways to one up the Tribe at every turn. If this were a cartoon, the Tigers would be the Road Runner with the Tribe filling the role of Wiley Coyote.
Looking to rebound from Monday’s horror show, The Indians sent Justin Masterson to the mound to take on Justine Verlander. In theory, you couldn’t ask for a better matchup if you were a Cleveland fan. Masterson has looked like a bona fide ace all year long while Verlander has struggled with consistency. However, the Tigers had been the one team this year to have Masterson’s number. Heading into last night’s game he was 0-2 with an ERA over 7. As it turned out, that trend would continue.
In seven innings of work, Masterson would allow five runs to cross the plate on seven hits and two walks. All of the damage would come in the top of the fifth inning with the majority of it coming off of the bat of Don Kelly.
Already trailing 2-0 thanks to an RBI ground out by Torii Hunter and RBI double from Miguel Cabrera, Don Kelly stepped to the plate with two outs and looking for a pitch he could put into play and possibly force another run across the plate. He did more than just that as he sent Masterson’s 1-1 fastball into the stands in right. It was a deflating blow, especially with Justin Verlander pitching like the Justin Verlander of old. Now up 5-1, that four run deficit looked like a 14 run deficit. It also continued Kelly’s run of success against Masterson, as his .458 career batting average against can attest.
Meanwhile, Justin Verlander responded to the challenge and did what he needed to do. He threw eight solid innings allowing only one run to score on four hits while striking out seven. The Indians lone run came in the bottom of the second when Ryan Raburn grounded out to second to score Michael Brantley. After that, Verlander got down to business weaving his way in and out of each inning with relative ease. Needing a victory to help push the Tigers’ division lead to five games, Verlander did what was needed to be done. Dominate.
For the Indians, the loss is a devastating blow. This was their opportunity to pick up some major ground on the Tigers in the AL Central race. Unless they can find a way to win the next two games of this series and pull back to where they were when the week began, the Indians are looking at the realistic possibility that their aspirations for winning the 2013 AL Central crown may be nothing more than a pipe dream.
The Good: There is no way to spin yesterday’s game in a positive light. Justin Masterson allowed five runs in a game in which he needed to match Justin Verlander almost pitch for pitch. Meanwhile, the offense was unable to get anything going. As the game wore on and Verlander grew more and more comfortable, Progressive Field became more and more like a graveyard. The silence was deafening.
The Bad: Pretty much everything. As previously mentioned, the Indians lacked the urgency needed and that you would hope to expect from a team in the middle of what might prove to be the most important series of their season.
The “Huh?”: Terry Francona‘s continued use of Asdrubal Cabrera in the cleanup spot is proving to be more problematic. It is bad enough that Cabrera barely batted over the Mendoza line in July and is well below .200 so far in August, but as the cleanup hitter in the lineup he was batting only .231/.268/.346 prior to Tuesday’s 1 for 4 performance. Is it time to consider moving Cabrera down in the lineup until his bat gets going? It sure looks that way.