Whatever was said in the Cleveland Indians' players only team meeting after Saturday's loss, it worked. The Indians snapped a four game losing streak in wild fashion. They took a big early lead only to blow it, then rode Michael Brantley's second home run of the day for a come-from-ahead 9-6 win over the Detroit Tigers.
Corey Kluber struck out a career high tying ten batters, giving up just two runs and five hits over 6 1/3 innings. But the Indians' bullpen wasn't up to the task, Joe Smith and Vinnie Pestano blowing a four run lead to stick Kluber with a no-decision. The fourth Tribe pitcher, Cody Allen (4-1), earned the win by getting the final out of the eighth. Chris Perez pitched the ninth to earn his ninth save.
Doug Fister had his second straight start where he put the Tigers in a deep hole. The Tribe scored five runs in the first two innings as Fister allowed six hits, including three home runs, in six innings of work. For the second straight start, the Tigers' offense clawed their way out of the Fister dug hole to give him a no-decision. The third Tigers pitcher of the day, Al Alburquerque (1-2), took the loss thanks to serving up the game winning home run to Brantley.
The Tribe offense was completely powered by the home run, hitting four on the day. Brantley led the way with two big flies and a two RBI double, driving in five runs in a 3-for-4 afternoon. Lonnie Chisenhall and Carlos Santana also went yard for the Tribe.
Torii Hunter had four RBIs for the Tigers, three coming on a game-tying three run homer in the top of the eighth. Looking much healthier after fighting with a back issue over the past week, Miguel Cabrera homered for one of his four hits for the Tigers. Cabrera also drove in a pair of runs to raise his MLB leading RBI total to 90.
In the big scheme of things, this loss doesn't mean much. The Tigers still lead the Central by 2 1/2 games and have undefeated Max Scherzer on the mound in the series finale. They are already guaranteed coming back to Detroit in first place with an over .500 road trip and a split with the Tribe, something we all would have been happy with before the Tigers left town.
All that doesn't make losing after coming back from 6-1 down any easier to take, but it does cushion the blow considerably. Let's save the DOOOOOOOM for another time.
Cabrera only needed one swing against Kluber to give the Tigers a first inning lead. Served up a first pitch, belt-high inside fastball, Cabrera turned on it, launching a monstrous fly ball to the nether regions of the left field bleachers (MLB.com video). Home run number 28 and RBI number 89 gave the Tigers an early 1-0 advantage. Estimated to have traveled 392 feet (that's all?!), the homer was Cabrera's second of the series and and fourth at Progressive Field this season.
After retiring the first two Indians batters, Fister struggled with his command, issuing back-to-back free passes to Jason Kipnis and the King of the Bros, Nick Swisher. The walks came back to bite Fister in a bad way. Brantley's liner was over the head of Andy Dirks in left, good for a two run double.
Fister continued having trouble in the first inning for the second straight start, putting the Tigers in an early hole. Santana cleared the bases by drilling a line drive over the wall in right center to give the Tribe a three run lead at 4-1. Fister needed 35 pitches to get out of the first inning, allowing two walks and two extra base hits after two were out. Not the shutdown inning you want to see after being given a lead.
It was deja vu all over again. The Tigers were trailing for the first time since Fister's last start, when he gave up four first inning runs to the Blue Jays on Tuesday.
The Tigers tried to counter the Tribe four spot in the second with a two out rally of their own, but Ramon Santiago struck out looking with runners on first and second to end the inning.
Fister put the Tigers in a deeper hole in the second. After not getting a strike three call from home plate umpire Sam Holbrook on a close pitch, .234 hitting Chisenhall powered the next pitch down the line, his high fly carrying just inside the foul pole for a lead off solo home run. Chisenhall's fifth home run of the season made it a 5-1 game.
Fister allowed six runs in the first two innings in his last start. He surrendered five over two innings today. Baby steps...
Just as he did in his last start, Fister settled down, shutting out the Indians through five after his Jeremy Bonderman-esque first two innings. Unlike his last start, the Tigers' offense hadn't been up to the task of bailing out Fister. Kluber was mowing down Tigers, holding them scoreless through five innings.
The Tigers kicked up their paws in the sixth, Cabrera leading off with a single, Kluber walking Fielder. The middle of the order mashers pulled off a double steal (with the help of Santana dropping the pitch) as Jhonny Peralta was striking out. Two down and ducks on the pond, it would be up to Dirks. He struck out swinging, inning over.
Two on and no one out, Kluber had struck out the side to get out of the jam and tie his career high of ten punch outs.
Fister served up another tater in the bottom half of the sixth, Brantley lead off by taking him yard to push the Tribe lead to 6-1. The Indians only had six hits off Fister, but three were home runs.
Kluber pitched into the seventh, to be pulled by Terry Francona after Santiago doubled with one out. The top of the order due to the plate, Francona called on the right-hander, Smith. To the Tigers' credit, they weren't going down without a fight.
Austin Jackson, Hunter and Cabrera greeted Smith with back-to-back-to-back singles, Hunter and Cabrera each driving in a run to cut the Indians' lead to 6-3.
Suddenly, Fielder was at the plate as the game-tying run. Busted on the fists, Fielder popped up to the third for the second out.
But Victor Martinez kept the inning alive, walking to load the bases. With Smith on the ropes, Peralta went after the first pitch (after Smith went to full counts on Jackson and Martinez, throwing 27 pitches to that point), sending a weak can of corn to right, leaving the bases loaded and ending the last, best chance for the Tigers' to make it a game.
Having got the call in Toledo from the Tigers this morning, Evan Reed made the trip down the Ohio Turnpike for good reason. He took over for Fister to start the bottom of the seventh, tossing a 1-2-3 inning.
Pestano started the eighth for the Tigers, immediately getting into trouble thanks to issuing a lead off walk. Dirks lead off the inning with the free pass. Pestano was unable to reach Alex Avila's swinging bunt, Dirks taking second on the infield single.
After Santiago bounced into a 4-6 fielder's choice, Jackson had a shot with runners on the corners, but stuck out swinging. On the verge of getting out trouble, Pestano broke out the gas can, throwing a Molitov cocktail at the Tribe's three run lead. Hunter turned on a hanging off speed pitch, sending a fly ball which clearing the high wall in left for a huge three run bomb (MLB.com video).
So much for the Indians' lead. Hunter had made it a brand new ball game at 6-6.
But Pestano wasn't through. He allowed back-to-back singles to Cabrera and Fielder, forcing Francona to go deeper into his already overtaxed bullpen. Cody Allen came on to face Martinez and proceeded to wild pitch both runners into scoring position. But Allen was able to end the inning by striking out Martinez, who went 3-2 fishing at what would have been ball four.
Just like that, the Tigers had scored five unanswered runs over the last two innings, tying the game at 6-all. For the second striaght start, the Tigers had bailed out Fister by taking him off the hook for the loss. The Indians bullpen had stuck Kluber with an undeserved no-decision.
Top of eight, Alburquerque replaced Reed. But ever mercurial, you don't know what you're going to get out of Alburquerque from game to game ... or even batter to batter. Today was bad Alburquerque, as he couldn't shut down the Tribe. Or more correctly, he couldn't shut down Brantley.
After walking the lead off man, Alburquerque fell behind Brantley 3-1. Forced to go away from his slider, Brantley crushed a thigh-high 95 MPH fastball, clearing the fence in right for a dagger two run homer. Brantley's second home run of the game was number seven on the season, giving the Indians back the lead at 8-6 (MLB.com video).
Alburquerque unable to throw strikes and serving up gopher balls, Leyland went with Luke Putkonen to try and keep the Tribe within hailing distance. An Avila passed ball, Chisenhall single and stolen base and a Stubbs sacrifice fly later, the Indians were up 9-6.
Cue the cry for trade deadline bullpen arms from the Tigers' fan base. Yes, Joaquin Benoit and Drew Smyly (it's still too soon to judge Bruce Rondon) need help.
Top of nine, the much maligned Chris Perez came on to nail down the win. He allowed a lead off single to Peralta, but struck out Dirks and induced Avila to bounce into a double play to lock up the win.
Game over. Your final score is Indians 9, Tigers 6, the Tribe winning a roller coaster ride for both teams.
What else is there to say but, "Good game, good effort?" To Fister, I'd add, "Stop using Jeremy Bonderman as your role model!" To Alburquerque, "THROW STRIKES."
With 2 1/2 game division lead, Max Scherzer scheduled to start tomorrow and the 11 game road trip almost over, Leyland can still show his sense of humor after a tough loss. When asked about Cabrera's production this season, Leyland compared it to his own.
"That was 7 years of my minor league career total."
The Tigers are unable to get past the ten games over .500 high water mark, their winning streak is snapped at five games. The loss drops the Tigers' overall record to 48-39. Their lead in the Central now stands at 2 1/2 games over the Indians, who are 46-42 on the year.
Monday is both the final game of the Cleveland series and the end of longest road trip of the season. Going for win number 14 and equaling Roger Clemens in 1986, All-Star Max Scherzer (13-0, 3.09 ERA) hopes to send the Tigers home on a high note. Scherzer is 2-0 against the Tribe this season. The Indians go with resurrected off the scrap heap left-hander Scott Kazmir (4-4, 4.86 ERA) as their starter. Kazmir has been pitching well, 1-0, 1.89 in his last three starts. First pitch is scheduled for 7:05 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
The Tribe had a players only team meeting after Saturday's loss.
Indians players held meeting after today's game. Message in short: this is not who they want to be & it's time to put pressure on opponents.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 6, 2013
We'll see if anything comes of it other than so much posturing.
The Tigers fan contingent at Progressive Field was out in force Sunday, making themselves known when Miguel Cabrera went yard.
Cabrera's homer traveled an estimated 392 feet. He glanced up and smiled at the fans chanting "M-V-P" as he walked back to #Tigers' dugout.— James Schmehl (@jamesschmehl) July 7, 2013
Sound the Progressive "crowd" made when Cabrera hit that bomb into the bleachers was unique. Almost reverential ... "Ohhhhhhh ..."— Lynn G. Henning (@Lynn_Henning) July 7, 2013
Cabrera is having another ridiculously good season.
Only 21 hitters ended the entire 2012 season with at least 28 HR and 89 RBI. Miguel Cabrera has those marks on July 7.— Jordan Bastian (@MLBastian) July 7, 2013
Tigers fans aren't at all surprised by anything Cabrera does anymore. It's expected Cabrera will post Triple Crown, league leading, Hall of Fame level numbers every season. We are watching the best Tigers hitter in our lifetime and maybe of all time.
Phantom Cam shows Cabrera treating a baseball the same way an oversize driver smashes a golf ball:
Think Miguel Cabrera swings hard? Baseballs shouldn't flatten like this pic.twitter.com/XfJi6EeGH0— Dane Brugler (@dpbrugler) July 7, 2013
Rod Allen knows physics?
"There's some compression goin' on there."
Early run support for Doug Fister? Is this real life?
Long break between innings, so Fister could get smelling salts. Fainted after getting early run support. #notreally— Matthew B. Mowery (@matthewbmowery) July 7, 2013
The Tigers were down 5-1 after two bad innings and the fan base immediately reverts to panic mode. BYB contributor Tokarz responds:
By the way: 3.5 games up. If we lose both remaining games, we're still 1.5 games up. AND COREY KLUBER IS STILL ON THE MOUND.— Tokarz (@tokarzontigers) July 7, 2013
Of course, MLive Commenter has the rebuttal:
SHOWS LEYLANS POOR LEADERSHIP THAT PLAYERS DON'T SET UP PLAYERS ONLY MEETING. #FIRELEYLAND— MLiveCommenter (@MLiveCommenter) July 7, 2013
Victor Martinez made another sparkling play at first base, robbing Asdrubal Cabrera of extra bases with a diving, rolling grab. But there's a minus side to not having Prince Fielder's glove on the diamond.
Prince doesn't catch that, but he probably does a more entertaining roll, so it's about a wash.— Eric Wayne (@PhilCokesBrain) July 7, 2013
Evan Reed couldn't get out of Toledo fast enough...
Not only did Evan Reed make the trip across the Ohio Turnpike and arrive in time in Cleveland, he's warming up in #Tigers bullpen right now.— Jason Beck (@beckjason) July 7, 2013
As someone who has driven the Ohio Turnpike numerous times, I have to believe Reed must have made the trip in a vehicle which didn't have Michigan plates.
From the "Baseball is a funny game" department: Prince Fielder extended his stolen base streak to at least one in eight straight years with his theft of second in the sixth. The only season of his career without a stolen base was in 2005, when Fielder had a 39 game cup of coffee with the Brewers. The more shocking fact is Fielder had seven stolen bases in his rookie season of 2006. It's safe to say seven will forever more be his career high.
Another streak ended today, though a bit obscure. Doug Fister's streak of 23 straight starts of two walks or less came to an end. Fister allowed three free passes in his six innings.
From the "Baseball is a funny game" department, part two:
Coming into this outing, Vinnie Pestano had made 21 appearances against the Tigers. 22 IP 11 H 2 ER 7 BB 25 K 0.79 ERA— TigersProspectReport (@TigersProspects) July 7, 2013
Today, Pestano allowed three runs on four hits while walking one in just 2/3 of an inning.
Let's have Fake Leyland put the loss in perspective:
Must suck to have a chance to win two straight series on the road. Go watch the White Sox— Fake Jim Leyland (@FakeLeyland) July 7, 2013
Miguel Cabrera: I think his back is feeling better, if a 4-for-4 day with a long home run and two RBIs is any indication.
Torii Hunter: Has been on a tear during the road trip, raising his average from .297 to .309. Hunter has been even hotter in Cleveland. He's 5-for-10 with two home runs and seven RBIs in two games, with two hits, a home run and four RBIs coming today..
Evan Reed: The only Tigers pitcher to have a drama free inning, retiring the side in order in the seventh.
Doug Fister: Fister has been tagged for six runs in three of his last four starts. Somehow, Fister has managed to go just 0-1 over that four game stretch. The All-Star break couldn't be coming at a better time for the struggling Fister. We may be ticked at Alburquerque for allowing the game winner, but Fister is who should shoulder most of the blame for the loss.
Al Alburquerque: Just as you get sucked in to believing Alburquerque had become a dependable setup man, he has an outing showing why he was sent down in the first place. Alburquerque faced four batters in the eighth. He retired just one, walking two and coughing up the game winning home run.
Craig Monroe: When asked in the FSD pre game who will be closing at the end of the season, C-Mo believes Jose Valverde still has something left and will be back as closer before September. OH. MY. GOD.
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Saturday was a good day for Torii Hunter. The veteran outfielder made the All-Star team while nearly hitting for the cycle and driving in three runs in a Tigers victory. Hunter was rewarded
with an even bigger honor than making the All-Star Game by taking the BYB PotG vote with 67%.