For the Detroit Tigers to ride the right arm of Justin Verlander to a win is not exactly a surprise. But to ride the bat of Don Kelly to victory? That is a surprise, but the Tigers did just that in a 5-1 win over the Cleveland Indians. The victory was the Tigers' tenth straight, their longest win streak since September 2011. The Tigers also increased their lead over the Indians to five games in the Central.
Verlander (12-8) has struggled at times this season, notably with his command. Tonight was the return of a dominant Verlander, one who combined triple digit fastballs with nasty breaking stuff, yet not walking a batter. Credited with the win, Verlander gave up just one run, scattering four hits in eight innings, striking out seven.
Indians' starter Justin Masterson (13-8) had six dominant innings, allowing seven hits, striking out six. Unfortunately for the Tribe, he pitched seven. The Tigers scored all their runs off Masterson in a five run fifth, tagging the Indians' ace with the loss.
Kelly entered the game hitting .381 in his career off Masterson. He ended it at .458, thanks to a 3-for-4 night, including a three run home run to cap off the Tigers' five run fifth. An ailing Miguel Cabrera added two hits and his 100th RBI.
In the ace versus ace battle, only one inning marred what would have been a marvelous pitcher's duel. Verlander did his part, while Kelly's bat made Masterson's one bad inning the game winner for the Tigers.
It might be Shark Week, but it's actually become Tiger Week.
Justin Verlander didn't have too difficult of a first inning despite allowing a lead off single to Michael Bourn. A strikeout and double play quickly ended the bottom of the first. But according to MLB.com's Jason Beck, Verlander didn't feel right.
Verlander got out of inning with K Swisher and DP Kipnis, but long talk with Jeff Jones in dugout. Clearly not comfortable with something.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) August 6, 2013
While the Verlander mystery percolated, Indians starter Justin Masterson was battling with his command, walking Prince Fielder and Victor Martinez. Don Kelly, who entered the night with a career .980 OPS versus Masterson, followed with a single through the right side, loading the bases.
Last night's hero Alex Avila couldn't get the Tigers on the scoreboard, striking out. Neither could the newest Tiger, Jose Iglesias, striking out on a pitch far out of zone. Ramon Santiago, bounced to short, to end a brutal squander. Then again, Avila is hitting .198, Iglesias isn't on the Tigers to hit the ball and Santiago's average is .210. Should the fact the Tigers didn't score really be a surprise?
The Tribe came out swinging against Verlander in the bottom half of the second. Asdrubal Cabrera hit a fly ball over the head of Torii Hunter in right for a double. Hunter did not play the ball with anything resembling confidence as he approached the wall, which is not a new issue with the Tigers' right fielder. Michael Brantley then lined a single to left, Cabrera holding up at third.
Carlos Santana hit a ground ball to Fielder, who was standing right next to the bag. He did catch Cabrera off third, but didn't step on the bag and took far too much time in getting the run down started. By the time the Tigers tagged out Cabrera, Brantley and Santana were both in scoring position on what should have been a double play.
Ex-Tiger Ryan Raburn drove in the first run of the game on a 4-3 ground out (which should have ended the inning), putting the Tribe up 1-0. Avila kept the damage to minimum, nearly sliding into the dugout to catch Lonnie Chisenhall's foul pop for the third out.
At that point, both Verlander and Masterson settled down. Whatever Verlander and Jeff Jones discussed, it worked, even though the Indians had taken a lead. Verlander had retired nine in a row after Brantley's second inning single. Masterson was still protecting the Indains' 1-0 lead, holding the Tigers to three hits through four innings.
That was soon to change.
Top of five, Santiago was leading off and looking to bunt his way on base. He instead reached in a far more painful way, Masterson drilling him in the back knee with a wayward breaking ball. Austin Jackson at the plate, Jim Leyland called for the hit and run, which actually worked! Santiago easily reached third when Jackson yanked a line drive single to left.
Runners on the corners, Hunter bounced to short, forcing Jackson but Santiago crossed the plate to tie the game at 1-all. While the run was scoring,m Hunter hustled down the line to keep out of the double play, beating the throw from second. That hustle paid off in a run, as Miguel Cabrera doubled off the wall in center to give the Tigers a 2-1 lead. The RBI was the 100th on the season for Cabrera, his tenth straight season of 100 or more.
Once Fielder bounced to first for the second out, Masterson plunked his second batter of the night. A breaking ball caught Martinez flush on the front ankle, the Tigers' DH hopping away from the plate, collapsing in a heap. After gathering himself and getting treatment from trainer Kevin Rand, Martinez remained in the game
At least a gimpy Cabrera and dinged up Martinez wouldn't have to run hard, courtesy of Donnie Baseball. Kelly, who owns Masterson in the same way Country Breakfast owns Verlander, proceeded to make Leyland look like a genius. Kelly made his third hit of the game a huge one, turning on a Masterson fastball and sending it far over the right field wall for an Earl Weaver Special and a 5-1 advantage. The three run home run was Kelly's fifth of the season, capping off a five run inning for the Tigers.
Masterson would give up a single to Avila before shattering Iglesias' bat, resulting in an inning ending ground ball. But the Tigers had sent nine to the plate, scoring five runs on four hits and pair of hit batsmen.
Bottom of five and given a four run lead, Verlander came through with a shutdown inning. Retiring the side in order for the third straight inning, Verlander had now set down 12 straight Indians. According to the Progressive Field radar, Verlander had struck out Raburn on pitches clocked at 98, 98 and 99 MPH.
Masterson bounced back from his five run fourth with a 1-2-3 fifth. Verlander's out streak ended when he hit Yan Gomes leading off the bottom half of the fifth. Bourn followed with a single to center, Jackson unable to make the shoestring catch. Swisher flew out to right, Gomes taking third. Jason Kipnis at the plate, Bourn proceeded to steal second.
Kipnis could do nothing but stare at a wicked Verlander breaking ball for the second out of the inning. The Indians would squander their two on, no one out threat when Verlander jammed Cabrera with a three digit fastball, bouncing weakly to second. It was old-school Verlander, owning absolutely nasty stuff.
Top of seven, still holding a 5-1 lead and approaching 100 pitches, Verlander remained in the game. Drew Smyly and Bruce Rondon were warming up, but wouldn't be immediately needed. Once again, a dominant Verlander set the Tribe down in order. Verlander ending the inning with his seventh strikeout. This time it was Raburn who could only watch as a knee-breaking curve dropped in the zone for strike three.
Top of eight, Matt Albers took over for Masterson, setting the side down in order. But one bad inning turned Masterson's night from great to blah.
Verlander's pitch count at 106, Leyland allowed his ace to start the eighth. He needed just six pitches to get three easy outs. Leyland broke out the "Handshake of doom, ending Verlander's night. For only the second time this season and first since June 29, Verlander had gone eight full innings. It was also the first game all season he had not walked a single batter.
Bottom of nine, the Tigers still holding a four run lead, Leyland went with Jose Veras. The former Astro had no trouble with a demoralized Tribe, needing just seven pitches to lock down the Tigers' tenth consecutive win.
GAME OVER! Your final score is Tigers 5, Indians 1.
Well, to be honest, it was Don Kelly 3, Tigers 2, Indians 1. They are now referring to Kelly as DON BLEEPING KELLY in Cleveland.
To put the Tigers' current streak in perspective, BYB commenter Joaquin on Sunshine couldn't have put it better in the game preview thread.
Starting catcher is battling the Mendoza Line
First baseman is in the worst slump of his career
Second baseman hasn’t played in a month
Shortstop is suspended for the rest of the season
Third baseman and reigning American League MVP can barely walk
Right fielder is hobbled by an Achilles injury
Center fielder is in the worst slump of his career
Left fielder hits pop-ups like they’re going out of style
Designated hitter is one year removed from an ACL surgery
And they’ve won 13 out of their last 14.
Make it 14-of-15, thanks to ridiculously good pitching. Some timely hitting has helped (Don Kelly? Alex Avila?), but the Tigers' rotation and bullpen have stepped up their games in a big, big way. And if this is the Justin Verlander the rest of the league is going to see over the rest of the season? Let's just say it bodes quite well for the Tigers.
Having won ten straight and 14-of-15, the Tigers' record stands 21 games over .500 at 66-45. The second place Indians fall five games back in the standings, falling 62-51. The Tribe are now closer to third place than first. Just as hot as the Tigers have been the Royals, entering tonight having won 12-of-13. Barring a miracle comeback, the Royals will lose to the Twins, falling nine games behind the Tigers. If you are a Kansas City fan, it has to be unbelievably frustrating to watch your team play their best baseball in a generation, but unable to make up any ground on the rampaging Tigers.
In game three, the Tigers send Doug Fister (10-5, 3.52 ERA) to the mound, facing Tribe right-hander Danny Salazar (1-0, 1.50 ERA). The often unhittable pitcher known as Second Half Fister returned after the All-Star break, and has been brilliant. Fister is 3-0, 0.82 in his last three starts, beating the Royals, Phillies and White Sox. Salazar, One of the Indians' top prospects, was recalled from Triple-A on Sunday expressly for this series. Salazar has made one career big league start, beating the Blue Jays on July 11 with six innings of two hit, one run ball. First pitch is 7:05 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
After last night's loss, Indians' starter Corey Kluber was placed on the 15-day disabled list with a weirdly termed injury.
The Indians roster move press release: "Placed COREY KLUBER on the 15-day Disabled List with a right long finger sprain." Long finger?— Craig Calcaterra (@craigcalcaterra) August 6, 2013
I never realized "middle finger" needed to be redacted/censored.
In more Tribe news, apparently the Tigers mentally broke Chris Perez.
Closer Chris Perez before Tuesday's game to reporter, "I'm not talking for the rest of they year. Stop asking." #Indians.— paul hoynes (@hoynsie) August 6, 2013
And nothing of value was lost.
After Prince Fielder mishandled the second inning run down well and then bounced out to end the third inning, Tony Paul of the Detroit News wasn't very complimentary.
If I had a Least Valuable Tiger vote, it'd go to Prince Fielder in 2013.— Tony Paul (@TonyPaul1984) August 6, 2013
Fielder isn't having his best season, but ... overreact much?
From the "Baseball is a funny game" department:
Don Kelly currently has higher batting average and more RBI and HRs per AB than Nick Swisher this season.— Drew Ellis (@ellisdrew) August 7, 2013
Any discussion of Justin Verlander's velocity being down this season was made moot tonight, if it wasn't already.
Verlander just looked at the scoreboard to see how hard he threw that fastball. It was 100.— TigersProspectReport (@TigersProspects) August 7, 2013
Seeing Cabrera and Martinez on the bases, both having trouble running, brought Brian Kenny's tweet to mind.
"Tis better to get on base and clog them, then not get on at all" There..the base clogging argument..best I can do off the cuff..— Brian Kenny (@MrBrianKenny) August 6, 2013
And they both scored.
I shouldn't be surprised, but it's still amazing no one is showing up at Indians games. A showdown between the first and second place teams, both coming into the series white hot, only draws 24K for the second straight night.
jeremy bonderman is adult bobby hill— josh (@Whoabot) August 7, 2013
While Kelly was being interviewed, Al Alburquerque made an appearance.
Justin Verlander's post game interview was highlighted with this shout out.
"I love Shark Week!"
FSD stats of the night: The offense is is averaging 5.7 runs a game over their ten game winning streak. More impressively, the Tigers' pitchers have an impressive 1.16 ERA in the ten wins.
Don Kelly: Donnie Baseball's three run bomb was a dagger in the heart of the Tribe. Upped his ownership of Masterson with a 3-for-4, three RBI night.
Don Kelly is now hitting .458 (11-for-24) with 2 HR, 3 XBH, 8 RBI and 0 K in his career against Justin Masterson.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) August 7, 2013
Justin Verlander: Tonight was the return of "Must See JV." With a fastball hitting triple digits on the radar, Verlander didn't allow a walk, scattering four hits over eight innings.
Miguel Cabrera: The hip flexor still an issues on the bases, it's not keeping him from swinging the bat. Cabrera limped his was to a pair of hits and an RBI.
Jim Leyland: Give credit where credit is due. Kelly was in the lineup over Andy Dirks for good reason, even if the fan base didn't realize it. Fans sure know the reasoning now.
Drummer guy: He's migraine inducing. Good thing he hasn't been heard much over the past two games.
TOP TEN COMMENTERS:
|5||Joaquin on Sunshine||57|
|# Recs||Commenter||Comment Link|
|8||Rob Rogacki||OT: I got a job!|
|5||Joaquin on Sunshine||Don Kelly owns Masterson, frees him.|
|5||dishnet34||I think Donnie should homer here and pull a Guillen.|
Odds are before the ninth inning, Anibal Sanchez would have been the PotG. But thanks to his ninth inning home run heroics, Alex Avila won the PotG in a walk, taking 87% of the vote.