As much as the Tigers needed to pick up a win against the Kansas City Royals to avoid being swept on Thursday, a win against the Cleveland Indians was also badly needed. The Tigers returned to where their 9-21 losing skid started a little more than a month ago, and gave a performance reminiscent of their days before their troubles began to win 6-4.
Porcello gave a stellar performance on the mound, slamming the door on the Indians for six shutout innings and held the Indians to just six hits over that time. "There were some counts that I fell behind and I was able to execute some changeups. But the fastball, the sinker and the four-seamer were huge," Porcello said.
Porcello commanded the strike zone while pitching with efficiency and gave the Tigers two 1-2-3 innings to work with. Ausmus said Porcello was tiring towards the end, so rather than send him out for another inning, he elected to bring Al Alburquerque in. Porcello's record is now 9-4 on the season and he retains a 3.76 ERA, third lowest on the team for starting pitchers.
The Tigers' offense meanwhile has begun to hit again -- more importantly, they're doing it when it matters most. Aside from a couple of mistakes on the basepaths, the offense was once again firing on all cylinders and backed up Porcello in a big way.
J.D. Martinez, who has been on a scorching hot streak, delivered the deciding three-run home run swing. "You see players get into a hot streak like this and I hope he's hot tomorrow. I hope it keeps rolling," Ausmus said.
The only Tiger not on his game Friday night was Ian Krol, who allowed two home runs and four hits to complicate what was once a comfortable 5-0 lead. "Probably could have kept the ball down a little more, buried my pitches a little more but other than that, it was just a bad night," Krol said.
Despite coming off a few days rest after experiencing discomfort in his shoulder, Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said it was nothing more than an off night for Krol. "His last outing he said he had no pain," Ausmus said. "His velocity was pretty good tonight. I just think it was an off night, quite frankly. He's a competitor, he's not giving in or not giving up with any hitter at the plate."
Alburquerque and Joba Chamberlain pitched well, shoring up the Tigers for the ninth inning. And for the second consecutive game, Joe Nathan gave the Tigers a solid, scoreless performance. A two-out single did no harm and Nathan put minds at ease by striking out two after going through a difficult stretch of poor pitching.
"The hitters definitely aren't as comfortable now," Nathan said. "It was like they were licking their chops before, getting up there, and really taking some good swings. This game is about making adjustments. Sometimes you'll be as low as you can, and sometimes that's what it takes to make big changes."
Ian Kinsler: Eugenio Suarez dove for a ball headed into left field, holding Lonnie Chisenhall to a two-out single in the second inning. With Chisenhall on first, Nick Swisher hit a ball straight at Ian Kinsler who had to dive and smother the ball to prevent a base hit. A quick flip on his knees to shortstop Eugenio Suarez started a smooth 4-6-3 inning-ending double play. He also narrowly avoided the Golden Sombrero for the night and not only got his first hit of the night — a double — but scored Rajai Davis (at second base) for the Tigers' sixth run of the night, and a much needed insurance run.
Victor Martinez: Hit a 393-foot no-doubter for his 18th long ball of the season with Cabrera on first base. The home run was just the second first-pitch home run of the season for Martinez and put the Tigers ahead 2-0 in the fourth inning.
Rick Porcello: Dominated the Indians with pitches that resulted in eight groundouts and six shutout innings. He allowed six hits and and struck out three while walking just one batter, throwing an even 100 pitches in the process.
J.D. Martinez: Had his third multi-hit game in five days. After a solid single in the second inning, J.D. smoked a 1-2 pitch to the deepest part of the field and just narrowly missed knocking another home run. Instead, he was forced to settle for a two-out double that never resulted in a run when Nick Castellanos lined out sharply to third base. But he made up for it in the eighth inning and hit what would turn out to be the difference in the game: a three-run blasted home run to deep right, his seventh of the season.
Miguel Cabrera: May not be doing a ton of hitting in the last week, but he flashed some leather in the sixth inning when he induced a 3-6-3 ground ball double play. Cabrera stretched out and snagged the return from Suarez, keeping his toe on the base just long enough for the out. Cabrera later legged out what should have been an inning-ending double play for the force, and kept the eighth inning alive. He advanced to second on a wild pitch which opened up an opportunity for Victor Martinez to be walked intentionally. With how hot J.D. Martinez has been as of late, it turned out to be a good thing.
Joba Chamberlain: Did what Ian Krol could not; struck out the first batter he faced. Krol was not able to strikeout a single batter in the eighth inning so Chamberlain came in and did it for him, getting Nick Swisher to strikeout swinging to end a messy inning.
Joe Nathan: The rare-form swinging strikeout by way of a fastball. Nathan did it not once, but twice as he quieted any notion of the Indians rallying in the ninth. He allowed a two-out single but quickly ended the inning by striking out Michael Bourn for the final out.
Don Kelly: Made a crucial base-running mistake that likely cost the Tigers the first run of the evening. Kelly hit a leadoff double in the third inning, but tried to steal third base with Suarez at the plate. He was picked off and Suarez laced a single on the next pitch that would have likely scored Kelly. Instead, after Ian Kinsler drew a walk to put two on, Austin Jackson popped out to first base in foul territory to end the inning.
Wasted Opportunities: The first attempted third-base steal for Kelly didn't go so well and it cost the Tigers a run. The sixth and seventh innings each had a man in scoring position but both were squandered and nothing resulted of either opportunity. J.D. Martinez doubled with two out in the sixth but Nick Castellanos lined out sharply to end the inning. The seventh gave Bryan Holaday his first hit of the night but with two out and Kinsler at the plate, Holaday was caught as he attempted to steal second base.
Miguel Cabrera: Struck out swinging on three pitches by Cory Kluber and was 1-3 on the night, his lone hit occurring in the fourth inning before Victor Martinez hit his 18th home run of the season. It's not often you'll find Cabrera striking out like that, particularly against someone he's had so much success against in his career.
Ian Krol: Ruined seven shutout innings and a comfortable 5-0 lead (thanks to the three-run homer by J.D. Martinez). Back-to-back singles brought Asdrubal Cabrera to the plate and he smoked a three-run home run of his own. With one out, Krol then gave up his second home run of the inning to Carlos Santana, a solo shot which cut the lead to a not-so-comfortable 5-4. He struck out the next batter but was replaced by Joba Chamberlain who came out to retire the final batter in swinging form. Chamberlain left the mound in fist-pump fashion, as he deservedly should have.
It seems that things get pretty heated in Cleveland. Between the fifth and sixth innings, the Indians' Hot Dog Derby takes place. Friday night it resulted in Mustard knocking Ketchup down harshly, and knocking Onion's purse out of her hand in the process. Mustard sprinted for the win, but the damage to Ketchup and Onions' fragile psyches was done. Lesson well learned, don't mess with Mustard; you won't like how it ends.
Obviously on the run from the Joey Chestnut lookalike. pic.twitter.com/1po2omtqS4— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) June 21, 2014
The folks at FOX Sports Detroit like to liven things up for night road games. Exhibit A submitted as evidence:
STREAKS AND STATS:
- J.D. Martinez hit a single with one out in the top of the second inning Friday night. The hit gave him a new career-long 10-game hitting streak and with his three-run homer in the eighth, is now hitting .447 (17x38) with five doubles, four home runs and 11 RBI in that time. His previous streak was for nine-games where he hit with a .371 average.
- Miguel Cabrera has been a bit quiet as of late, hitting 10-36 (.278) in his last 10 games with six RBI and just one home run. His last multi-hit game was a week ago, on June 14.
- Eugenio Suarez has been in a 2-18 slump after getting off to a white-hot start. His one-out single in the third inning was the only hit of the night for Suarez and he struck out swinging in the top of the ninth. He has not had an RBI since June 14, which, coincidentally was when Cabrera began his mini slump.
- Miguel Cabrera picked up his sixth ground ball double play of the season at first base, which leads the American League by two for a single player at that position. Only the Cleveland Indians, with seven, have more; they have not compiled that number with a single player at first base.
- Rick Porcello now has a 1.78 ERA in 35 1/3 innings and 27 strikeouts with seven earned runs in his last six starts against the Indians.
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
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GAME 69 PLAYER OF THE GAME
Joe Nathan's unexpected ninth-inning dominance last night impressed the fan base, but not as much as Anibal Sanchez's seven-inning, one-run-allowed performance to steady a shaky rotation. Sanchez wins PoTG with 77% of the vote.