The Indians lost to the Tigers on Wednesday night. That’s the bad news. The worse news? They now find themselves six games back of the Tigers for the division lead with one more game left to play in what has become a nightmare of a series. Quite frankly, there isn’t much left to say other than the Tigers have beaten the Indians all over the diamond in virtually every way imaginable.
In Wednesday’s game, a 6-5 loss in 14 innings, the Indians had their opportunities to take control of the game. For reasons that are beyond explanation they just couldn’t find a way to do it. Quite frankly it was the same old song and dance we have seen throughout the year. That is when it comes to the Tigers, the Indians continually find a way to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
The stakes were especially high on Wednesday night considering the fact that manager Terry Francona had opted to bypass Ubaldo Jimenez in favor of rookie Danny Salazar. It was a hotly debated decision this week and one that if it worked would look genius, but if it failed would be the source of ridicule for days to follow. For what it’s worth, the decision appeared to fall somewhere in the middle.
Salazar threw 7.2 innings allowing only four runs on seven hits and a walk. He also showed a fair amount of dominance by striking out 10 Tigers. However, it was the long ball that would approve to be his Achilles heel.
Up 2-1 in the top half of the sixth inning thanks to a Yan Gomes home run and Nick Swisher RBI double, Salazar mad one of two very costly mistakes. On a 3-2 pitch, Tigers center fielder Austin Jasckon sent s souvenir to the fans on the home run porch in left field. The solo shot tied the game at 2-2 and knocked some of the air out of the stadium.
However, in the bottom of the seventh the Indians would get another chance to take the lead. With Mike Aviles on third and one out, Swisher missed a home run by all of three feet. His fly ball to deep right center hit off the middle of the wall for a double to put the Indians back on top 3-2. The double also helped cap a solid night by Swisher at the plate as he went 3 for 4 with those two RBI doubles.
The lead wouldn’t last long, though. In the following half inning Salazar would make his second and ultimately most costly mistake of the game to none other than Miguel Cabrera. Once again the question needs to be asked: Why do the Indians continue to pitch to Cabrera? In their defense, Cabrera had been 0 for 3 at that point and with two outs and a runner on first there was little option other than to pitch to Cabrera. On the first pitch, a 96-mph fastball out of the middle of the plate, Cabrera hammered a monster shot the stands in center, just to the right of the Indians bullpen. The shot made it 4-3 Tigers and stunned those in attendance.
Luckily, the Indians had one more rally in them. With Michael Brantley and Carlos Santana on third and second respectively, Yan Gomes grounded out to short stop. It wasn’t flashy, but it got the job done as Brantley raced home for the game tying run.
The Tigers and Indians remained gridlocked at 4-4 until the top half of the 14th inning. With one out and runners at the corners, Marc Rzepczynski was brought on to face Prince Fielder. He did well getting to 0-2, but on the third pitch of the at bat Fielder was able to line a double to the gap in left center that allowed both Austin Jackson and Hernan Perez to score. It was 6-4 Detroit and the writing was on the proverbial wall. Both Tom Hamilton and Matt Underwood sounded despondent on their respective telecasts as they knew what a third straight loss to the Tigers would mean to the team’s playoff chances.
The Indians put up a valiant effort in the bottom half of the inning, but once again it just wasn’t enough. They were able to cut the Tigers lead to 6-5 when Michael Bourn doubled off of Detroit closer Joaquin Benoit. With the speedy Bourn aboard and two outs, many were hopeful that Drew Stubbs could find a hole somewhere in the Detroit defense as any hit was sure to score the speedy Bourn. Unfortunately, he never made contact and instead struck out to end the game.
With the loss, the Indians now find themselves in a bad situation. They are now 3-12 against their rivals from the state up North and six games back in the division. They conclude the series today as Zach McAllister takes on Max Scherzer in a game that they most certainly need to win. The season is not nearly over and anything can happen, but to fall seven games behind the Tigers with a little over a month and a half to go is a rather precarious situation to find yourself in.
The Good: Danny Salazar pitched well in his 7.2 innings of work. He certainly could have been worse and many felt that he would be worse in his second big league start. While he did give up the home run to Miguel Cabrera that proved to be extremely costly, his overall performance was one that makes you wonder if Salazar is here in Cleveland to stay.
Also, credit needs to go to Nick Swisher and Michael Brantley. Both delivered three hits on Wednesday night and did what they could to keep the Indians in the game. Yan Gomes also deserves some credit not only for his home run in the third, but also his RBI ground out in the bottom of the eighth.
The Bad: The overall mood right now. There was so much buildup to this series and so much excitement about the possibilities that could come of it only to have us bear witness to the ultimate worst case scenario. At the very least, the Indians had to manage a split of these four games and now they are simply looking to save face by taking one of them. A sweep is by no means a season killer, but it doesn’t do the Indians any favors in the long run.
The “Huh?”: The Indians are now 3-12 against the Tigers in 2013. There is no logical explanation for that type of performance other than the Indians have a mental block when it comes to the Tigers that prevents them from being able to beat these guys.