The Cleveland Indians stranded 14 runners through nine innings and gave up a game-tying home run in the ninth. But Michael Brantley's walk-off home run off Al Alburquerque in the tenth gave the Indians a 5-4 win over the Detroit Tigers.
The Tigers had two streaks snapped in the loss. Their winning streak ended at six straight, and the road winning streak came to an end at 11 games.
Scott Atchison (W, 1-0), the fourth and final Indians pitcher, got credit for the win after pitching a 1-2-3 tenth. Closer Cody Allen was charged with a blown save in his one inning. But it was starter Corey Kluber handcuffed the Tigers for much of the game, scattering eight hits while allowing three runs and striking out eight while pitching into the eighth inning.
Detroit starter Drew Smyly struggled through five innings, giving up three runs on seven hits, walking a season high five and striking out six.
The dam finally broke for the Tigers' bullpen after not allowing a run over the first six games of the road trip. Al Alburquerque (L, 1-1) took the loss, giving up the Brantley walk-off home run in 2/3 of an inning. Phil Coke was also dinged for a run and three hits in two innings of work. Ian Krol and Joba Chamberlain pitched scoreless frames to get the Tigers into extra-innings.
Despite leaving 14 on base, the Indians had 14 hits and five starters with two hits or more. Brantley had two hits , including the game-winning home run. Ex-Tiger Ryan Raburn reached base four times on two singles and two walks. Jesus Aguilar just one hit, but was the only Indian with two RBIs, the first of his career.
Miguel Cabrera continued to rake for a third straight game with three hits. Rajai Davis chipped in a two RBI double. The Martinez's supplied all the power- Victor Martinez hit a solo home run in the second and J.D. Martinez's pinch-hit solo shot in the ninth sent the game into extras.
Manager Brad Ausmus was heavily second guessed for the decisions he made tonight, most of them surrounding the use of Coke. Ausmus went to the manager's cliche bible and first played the "The bullpen has done well" card.
"The first six games of the trip were outstanding."
Then the "He's (Coke in this case) part of the bullpen" card.
"He's part of our bullpen. He actually did nice job."
Along with the "We're shorthanded" card.
"We're kinda shorthanded in the bullpen. We needed a couple innings out of Phil. We had to be prepared (for extras)."
And finally, the "Luck" card.
"The guy who gets on in his second inning, a ball off the end of the bat. A swinging bunt that ends up scoring. Sometimes you don't get the breaks."
As for the game-winner served up by Albuquerque?
"It looked a tick up."
In many ways, his quotes were Jim Leyland-esque in style. In no way will Ausmus throw anyone under the bus.
It's just one loss, tough as it might be. Regardless, the Tigers remain atop the baseball standings at 27-13, .675.
Detroit's lead holds steady at seven games over over the Royals in the Central. If you're going to lose a game (and you have to admit was going to happen soon, long road win streaks are rare for a reason), there no better time to do so when your closest opposition loses as well.
The Tigers will bounce back. They always do.
Drew Smyly, the only member of the Tigers who didn't sleep in Boston Sunday night, struggled with his command early. Bottom of one, Smyly gave up a one out single to Asdrubal Cabrera, then issued back-to-back two outs walks to ex-Tiger Ryan Raburn and not-a-guitarist Carlos Santana.
Smyly gave the Tribe a gift run when he bounced a breaking ball five feet in front of Alex Avila, which skipped off him for a wild pitch and 1-0 Cleveland lead. The Indians up a run and looking for more, Andrew Romine saved at least one run and bailed out Smyly by going deep into the hole to throw out Yan Gomes at first, ending the inning.
The Tigers needed only one batter to knot the game at 1-all. Corey Kluber left a knee-high, 2-2 fastball over the plate for Victor Martinez, who golfed a line drive over the right field wall (MLB.com video). It was home run number 11 for Martinez, extending his team lead.
Nick Castellanos followed up the big fly with a single to center. Kluber then walked Avila, which didn't worry him much as the struggling Romine (.167/.189/.167 in May) was on deck and the slumping Rajai Davis (.195/.227/.341 in May) next in the hole.
Romine struck out on three pitches. Davis also struck out on three pitches, flailing at a breaking ball closer to Parma than the strike zone.
Smyly looked far sharper in the second inning, needing just ten pitches to retire the side in order.
Two out in the third, Miguel Cabrera extended the inning with a looper which dropped in short right. Raburn gave Tigers' fans PTSD by making an ill-advised dive, playing single into a double.
Don Kelly on deck, the Indians elected to walk Martinez. But the first pitch of the intentional pass sailed over the head of Gomes and rolled to the backstop, allowing Cabrera to stroll to third.
Runners on the corners, Kelly hit the ball as hard as Don Kelly can. But Michael Brantley was able to make a nice running catch on the left field warning track, ending the two out threat.
Breaking news: Somebody stopped Don Kelly.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 19, 2014
Smyly had retired five straight before Brantley's liner found the gap in right center for a two out, two base hit. Just as he did in the first, Smyly issued a walk to Raburn. But this time around, first inning history didn't continue to repeat itself. Smyly induced a ground ball off the bat of Santana to end the scoring threat.
The Tigers were having trouble laying off Kluber's slider striking out the side. Romine ended the inning with his second K, halfway to his second Golden Sombrero in three games. The badly struggling shortstop had now struck out in 11 of his last 22 at bats.
Smyly's command was still an issue in the fourth, a walk to Nick Swisher coming after a Gomes lead off single. Smyly got a badly needed out when Jesus Aguilar swing over a 3-2 pitch in the dirt. But he was giving his catcher a workout, Avila more often than not forced to act as a wall thanks to Smyly's breaking balls having a mind of their own.
Smyly then rediscovered his command. He retired Mike Aviles on a fly ball and Michael Bourn's checked swing bouncer to Smyly looked to have ended the inning. But Smyly wasn't aware of where his defense was stationed. He started toward third, expecting to toss the ball to Castellanos for the force. Unfortunately, his third baseman was nowhere near the bag, positioned shaded toward short. By the time Smyly realized his mistake, he turned and fired to first ... too late to get Bourn.
The Tribe was unable to take advantage despite the gift base hit. The worse Cabrera popped up to the better Cabrera, Smyly surviving a 28 pitch inning without allowing a run.
Kluber was having no such battles, setting the Tigers down in order in the top of the fifth. Kluber had retired seven straight since issuing the intentional walk to Martinez in the third.
Smyly wasn't long for the game as he entered the bottom of the fifth with a pitch count of 81. Up in the bullpe was, of all arms, Phil Coke.
After a one out single by Raburn (reaching base a third time) and a two out walk of Gomes, Smyly was the verge of crossing the 100 pitch mark as the Ohio Bro King came to the plate.
For the fourth time in five innings, the Tribe had a runner in scoring position. Brad Ausmus allowed Smyly to try to get out of his own jam. This time he couldn't, the .195 hitting Swisher singling to center. Raburn scored, Gomes advancing to third, the Indians up 2-1
Aguilar made it a 3-1 game by singling into the hole at short. Romine dove and got a glove on the ball, but had no play as Gomes crossed the plate.
An animated and frustrated Smyly finally ended a taxing outing by striking out Aviles. Smyly needed 57 pitches (28 in the fourth, 29 in the fifth) get get through his final two innings. Kluber's pitch count through five inning was 67.
The Tigers were bit by the shift in the sixth. Cabrera led off the inning with a single, but Martinez's scorched one-hopper was hit into the teeth of the shift, Aviles making a diving stop to start a 4-5-3 double play.
Being the Indians have been the worst hitting team in baseball against left-handers Ausmus went with Coke in the bottom of the sixth. The other Cabrera bounced a double inside the third base bag with one out. Coke found more trouble by going to a full count before walking Brantley.
Two on and one out, an epic battle of Tigers fan's scapegoats took place - "The Human Victory Cigar" versus "Ryan Ray-bum." you can give the W in the scapegoat battle to the Cigar, striking out Ray-bum on a 94 MPH fastball. It was the first time Tigers' pitching had retired Raburn in four at-bats.
We then got a Coke finger point when Santana flew out to center. It wasn't pretty and took 23 pitches, but Coke had gotten out of the inning unscathed.
Coke's work was rewarded with a Tigers' comeback in the seventh. Castellanos led off with an infield single, taking third when Avila doubled high off the left field wall. Romine actually hit the ball hard, but it was a sinking liner to short for the first out.
Davis, who has been slumping and isn't the best option against any right-handed pitcher, becomes a different hitter when he has an RBI opportunity. He proved it again with a two RBI double to center, knotting the game at 3-all (MLB.com video).
Ausmus rolled the dice, Coke remaining in the game to start the eighth. His outing took a turn back for the worst when Gomes reached on a swinging bunt, Castellanos' throw pulling Cabrera off the bag. Swisher followed with a hard single to left. Davis threw to third, but Romine made a smart play by cutting the ball off, and nailing Swisher at second for the first out. Call it a TOOTBLAN.
In need of a K or a ground ball, Coke did not make a good pitch to Aguilar. The pitch was an awful one, actually. Coke threw a very hittable 0-2 fastball up, which Aguilar drove to center. The sacrifice fly plated Gomes, giving the Tribe back the lead at 4-3.
Coke got the third out, but the damage was done. What had been an acceptable outing turned into a bad one, the Tigers pushing their luck by asking a second inning out of the struggling reliever.
Phil Coke strikes again.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 20, 2014
Kluber was on the mound to start the eighth, but it wasn't for long. Cabrera led off by singling for his third hit of the night. Terry Francona pulled Kluber, replacing him with Bryan Shaw.
Shaw got a big out when Martinez hit a ball into the teeth of the shift for a second straight at-bat. The other Cabrera dropped the ball on the transfer at the bag, but a video challenge did not overturn the call. The better Cabrera was ruled out at second, Martinez safe at first.
Given an extra out, the Tigers couldn't take advantage. Kelly struck out (Where was Austin Jackson?), Castellanos popping up to end the inning.
Sticking with left-handers, Ausmus used Ian Krol in the eighth. After two were out, Krol plunked Brantley and allowed a single to Raburn. But Kelly ran down Santana's line drive to extinguish the threat.
Top of nine and down to their last two outs against closer Cody Allen, J.D. Martinez pinch-hit for Romine. Martinez the younger is on the team for one reason - he brings power off the bench. Allen threw a 96 MPH fastball right down the middle, Martinez depositing the ball over the center field fence (MLB.com video).
Holy crap that just happened.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) May 20, 2014
Two down, Kinsler extended the inning with a two out liner which skipped past Bourn in left center for a double. But a bad game for Torii Hunter got worse, striking out to strand the lead run.
The first Tigers right-hander to take the mound was Joba Chamberlain. The Indians immediately kicked up their heels. Gomes led off with a single, pinch-hitter Lonnie Chisenhall did the same with one out.
Chamberlain then became reacquainted with a pitcher's best friend - the double play. Aviles bounced to third, Castellanos stepping on the bag and firing to first to nip a possible game-winning rally in the bud.
The Tigers were playing bonus baseball for the first time since April 10. They started the season with three extra-inning games in their first seven games, winning two.
Top of the tenth, the Tigers went down in order against Scott Atchison. Kelly mysteriously remained in the game with Austin Jackson available to hit. His slow roller to first ended the inning.
Al Alburquerque took over in the bottom of the tenth. He easily retired the first two batters. But one strike away from getting out of the inning, and .195 hitting Raburn on deck, Alburquerque hung a breaking ball. Brantley smoked a line drive over the eight field wall.
Your final score is Indians 5, Tigers 4.
Justin Verlander gets the ball for the Tigers in Tuesday's game two. Their rotation in upheaval and having sent great pitching hope Danny Salazar back to Triple-A Columbus, Cleveland will start his newly called up replacement, Trevor Bauer
Bauer, a 23-year-old right-hander, was 4-1 with a 2.15 ERA in seven Triple-A starts. He made one spot start for the Tribe this season, facing the Padres in the second game of an April 9 twin-bill. Bauer didn't earn a decision, allowing just two runs, one earned, on four hits, striking out eight over six innings.
Verlander's last start was the worst by a Tigers' rotation member since April, allowing five runs (all in the fifth inning) and six hits over six innings of work in a 7-5 win over the Orioles. Verlander is 2-0 with an uncharacteristic 4.50 ERA in his last three appearances.
First pitch at Progressive Field is scheduled for 7:05 PM.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
Taking Zubaz to extremes? Damn straight!
Streaks and stats:
Victor Martinez's home run in the second gives him a hit in nine consecutive games, and 19-of-20.
Miguel Cabrera extended his hitting streak to ten games with his third inning double.
Cabrera has 345 multi-hit games as a Tiger, tied with Bobby Higginson for 16th overall in franchise history.
Drew Smyly's five walks was the most issued by any Tigers' pitcher this season.
Rajai Davis is unconscious with ducks on the pond. his seventh inning double raises his average to.400 with 13 RBI with runners in scoring position.
J.D. Martinez's home run in the top of the 9th was the first pinch-hit home run of his career. It was the first pinch-hit homer by a Tiger since Andy Dirks went yard against the White Sox on September 21 of last season.
The Tigers road win streak is snapped at 11. Their winning streak ends at six games. The bullpen's streak of scoreless innings ended at 18 innings.
Miguel Cabrera: Was on base all night long with his third consecutive three hit game. Unfortunately, Kinsler and Hunter went hitless, so there was no on on base for the big man to drive home.
J.D. Martinez: The Tigers need power off the bench. Martinez supplied it tonight with a game-tying home run.
Victor Martinez: He was hitting the ball hard, but contained somewhat by the shift. Martinez did beat the shift once with a solo home run.
Rajai Davis: If he could come to the plate only when there are runners on second and/or third. He was 1-for-2 with a double and two RBIs with runners in scoring position, 0-for-3 otherwise.
Nick Castellanos: Two singles for the rookie, the only other Tiger other than Cabrera with more than one hit. Hopefully four hits in his last three games is a sign Castellanos is breaking out, as he's still scuffling along at .242/.265/.387.
Phil Coke: A God awful pitch ultimately spoiled what had been an OK outing. But asking for more than one inning from Coke is just looking for trouble. The Tigers found it.
Al Alburquerque: Allowed his third home run of the season after giving up just five in all of 2013. Worse, he allowed Brantley to beat him with the under the Mendoza Line residing Ryan Raburn on deck.
Brad Ausmus: The Tigers' rookie manager was heavily second guessed tonight.
Fist off was the odd use of your worst pitcher on the roster, trying to get two innings out of him in a high leverage situation. If the goal was to get Coke going, he should have been pulled after a scoreless seventh. If he had been pulled there, Coke would have had himself four straight scoreless appearances and possibly a modicum of fan support. That all went out the window in the eighth.
You can also add not replacing Don Kelly with Austin Jackson as the game progressed. In need of a run and Jackson on the bench, letting Kelly hit in the eighth and tenth isn't the best use of personnel.
There's also the old chestnut of a manger refusing to use his best reliever because it wasn't a save situation. Who would you have rather have seen pitch the tenth, Al Alburquerque or Joe Nathan?
Drew Smyly: Was in trouble in four of his five innings, and needed 58 pitches to get through the last two. It's the second straight game where Smyly struggled with his command. Worse, Smyly couldn't get Raburn out!
Cleveland fans: Well, not all of them, as there weren't many in attendance. But there were a handful who were as annoying as all Hell thanks to being constantly picked up by the broadcast microphones spewing "WOOOOOOOOOOOO." And it goes without saying Drum Guy is evil personified.
Travel: The Tigers have to be given credit, the last 24 hours weren't the easiest. They didn't get to bed until God knows when thanks to plane trouble forcing them to remain in Boston and didn't arrive in Cleveland until late this afternoon. Of course, they would then play an extra-inning game.
TOP TEN COMMENTERS:
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GAME 39 PLAYER OF THE GAME:
It's been some time since Ian Kinsler topped a PotG poll, but he earned the honor with 56% of the vote. Kinsler's four hit, two runs scored performance helped the Tigers sweep the Red Sox.