The Cleveland Indians completed a sweep of their doubleheader with the Detroit Tigers, taking the nightcap 5-2. Cleveland broke open a 2-2 game in the ninth inning when badly struggling Detroit closer Joe Nathan gave up a two out, three RBI double to Carlos Santana. The Indians have started the second half by taking three straight from the first place Tigers, pulling within 4 1/2 games of the Al Central lead.
Unheralded Chris Dickerson carried the Tribe's offense early on. Despite owing just 15 career home runs in seven seasons, the journeyman outfielder took Tigers' starter Max Scherzer deep twice, accounting for all of Cleveland's offense before their big ninth inning rally.
The Indians got a surprisingly good start from Zach McAllister, allowing just one run on three hits in 5 1/3 innings. The winning pitcher was Carlos Carrasco (W, 3-3), who tossed a scorless eighth inning. Cody Allen pitched the ninth, earning his 13trh save.
Their bullpen showing the signs of strain due to overuse in the first two games of the series, the Tigers hoped Scherzer would pitch deep into the game. He couldn't, needing a season high 118 pitches to get through 5 2/3 innings. He allowed six hits and two runs, striking out four and walking four.
The first two Detroit relievers were solid. Ian Krol didn't allow a hit in 1 1/3 innings, while Joba Chamberlain needed just six pitches to retire the side in a hitless eighth. Then Joe Nathan (L, 4-3) and the ninth inning happened.
Nathan allowed a lead off double, ultimately loading the bases with two out before serving up the game-winning, bases clearing double to Santana. Nathan allowed two hits, two walks, and three runs, taking a well-earned fourth loss of the season. At the end of the inning, Nathan was booed off the mound by an angry Comerica Park crowd.
The Tigers could only muster five hits against four Indians pitchers. Two of those hits belonged to Austin Jackson, who also drove in both Detroit runs.
After the loss, manager Brad Ausmus said he thought about leaving the very effective Chamberlain in to pitch the ninth, but his surgically repaired ankle was bothering him. Thus, Joe Nathan got the ninth inning nod. You know what happened from there.
Max Scherzer: He'll get a hiss because of other circumstances, but Scherzer also gets a roar. He had to pitch through neck soreness which led to battling with his command all night, yet still managed to hold the Indians to six hits and two runs over 5 2/3 innings. If only Chris Dickerson didn't come to the plate...
Ian Krol: Got some help from nice catches by Austin Jackson and J.D. Martinez, but Krol settled in to pitch 1 1/3 hittless innings of relief.
Austin Jackson: He was the Tigers' offense in the nightcap with two RBI. Accounted for all of Detroit's scoring with a bases loaded walk in the third and a two out triple in the seventh (MLB.com video).
Joba Chamberlain: Talk about lock down relief - One inning, six pitches, three outs.
Max Scherzer' pitch count: On a night where the Tigers are playing a doubleheader and the bullpen is frayed due to throwing seven innings in the previous two games, the last thing the Tigers needed was high pitch count Max Scherzer to return. But that's what happened, Scherzer crossing the 90 pitch mark in the fourth. An eight pitch fifth bought Scherzer one more inning. That ended badly when Chris Dickerson homered on Scherzer's 118th and final pitch with two out in the sixth.
Chris Dickerson: Entered tonight's game 0-for-9 with seven strikeouts against Scherzer for his career. Tonight Dickerson reached base three times against Scherzer, drawing a walk along with his pair of solo home runs. It was a true "You can't predict baseball" performance.
J.D. Martinez: Has the much feared, but somewhat expected, regression begun? Martinez struck out three times in an 0-for-4 night, and is now 1-for-12 with five strikeouts in his first three games post All-Star break.
The heart of the Tigers' batting order: Ian Kinser, Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and J.D. Martinez were a combined 1-for-20 with six strikeouts. It would be hard to beat a Little League team with that lack of production. You can point fingers at Joe Nathan, but I'm surprised the game was even close enough for him to blow when the Tigers get absolutely no offense from their best bats.
Joe Nathan: A brutal ninth inning for Detroit's apparently washed up closer. Two hits, two walks, three runs, and an ERA now at 6.23.
Nathan serves up a bases loaded double to Santana. Nathan is what he is, but no longer what he was.— Bless You Boys (@blessyouboys) July 20, 2014
What makes the ninth even more ironic was Ken Rosenthal reporting earlier in the Fox Sports 1 broadcast the Tigers want to acquire bullpen help, but don't want to replace Nathan as their closer.
There were pregame reports Max Scherzer may have had arm issues while warming up. Trainer Kevin Rand was seen in the bullpen with the Tigers' All-Star, reportedly investigating his shoulder. Rick Porcello was seen heading to the bullpen as well, leading to speculation he would be an emergency starter. Scherzer did take the mound to start the game, but was visibly shaking his arm in the first inning, as if to loosen it up. Whatever was bothering him appeared to go away as the game progressed.
Later in the game Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal reported Scherzer had actually been dealing with a neck cramp. There was no arm distress involved. Everyone exhale.
Post game, Brad Ausmus admitted Scherzer was nearly scratched and Porcello would have replaced him. Ausmus added the neck issue affected Scherzer all game long. Scherzer claims he will be fine for his next start.
After the doubleheader Drew VerHagen, who was tagged with the loss in his first career start this afternoon, was optioned back to Triple-A Toledo.
STREAKS AND STATS:
The Indians' doubleheader sweep was their first in Detroit since July 17, 1966.
One of these things is not like the others,
One of these things just doesn't belong,
Can you tell which thing is not like the others
By the time I finish my song?
Did you guess which thing was not like the others?
Did you guess which thing just doesn't belong?
If you guessed Chris Dickerson is not like the others,
Then you're absolutely...right!
Chris Dickerson didn't quite match the HR-hitting profile of the others to hit 2 HR in game vs Max Scherzer pic.twitter.com/zcPunrw9vi— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) July 20, 2014
WIN PROBABILITY GRAPH:
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