For a second straight night the Detroit Tigers' bats came up short against a Cleveland Indians starting pitcher. Unlike Tuesday, there would be no late inning comebacks. The Tribe pulled away to take an easy 7-0 victory behind an excellent Danny Salazar, who tossed the first shutout of his career. The Tigers were blanked for the eighth time in 2014.
The loss drops the Tigers 1 1/2 games back of the Kansas City Royals in the race for the Al Central. Their lead for the second wild card is down to a half-game over the Seattle Mariners. The Indians remain on the outskirts of wild card contention, four games back of the Tigers.
Salazar (W, 6-6) has pitched well in the second-half for Cleveland, elevating his streak of solid performances with a great one. The 24-year-old right-hander was masterful, recording both the first complete game and shutout of his career. He held the Tigers to eight hits, striking out nine while not issuing a single walk. Salazar retired 17 of the last 20 batters he faced.
Justin Verlander (L, 12-12) got no support from his offense or defense, then ran out of gas in the seventh inning as the game fell out of reach for Detroit. Tagged for his 12th loss of the season, Verlander was charged with seven runs, six earned, on nine hits, striking out seven and walking one over 6 2/3 innings.
Offensively for Detroit, there was little to praise. They were outhit 11-8 and didn't draw a single walk. Miguel Cabrera's bat remained hot with two hits, the only Tiger to reach base more than once.
Carlos Santana homered for the second straight night, giving Salazar all the offense he would need. Santana's two-run shot in the first inning was his 24th of the season. Jose Ramirez led the Indians attack with three hits, two runs scored and an RBI. Lonnie Chisenhall added a pair of doubles, a run scored and an RBI.
To be honest, there's little to pick from tonight.
Miguel Cabrera: The only Tiger to reach base more than once.
Robbie Ray: Got the ninth inning garbage time assignment, made the most of it by tossing a scoreless eighth inning.
Steven Moya: Thanks to a pinch-hit single, Moya is still batting 1.000 for his career.
Defense: The fourth inning wasn't good defensively for either team, but the Indians were able to capitalize on the Tigers' two miscues. Meanwhile, Detroit couldn't capitalize on their gift scoring opportunity, stranding a pair in scoring position.
Offense: Games like this happen and Salazar is an undeniable talent. But when you get shutout, the entire offense gets a damn hiss. Save for J.D. Martinez's miraculous ninth inning home run last night, the last two games have been 17 innings full of squandering and offensive futility.
Justin Verlander: A bad week for Verlander got worse. He wasn't at his sharpest and left too many pitches up. He did pitch into the seventh, then the wheels fell off. When the dust had settled, Verlander had allowed seven runs, six earned, in 6 2/3 innings.
Brad Ausmus' handling of Justin Verlander: When you combine the lack of off-season conditioning due to the core muscle surgery with the shoulder issues which resulted, Verlander is no longer (for this season, anyway) a horse who can take you deep into games on a regular basis. After six pretty solid innings, Verlander again ran out of gas, unable to get out of the seventh inning. But Ausmus allowed his starter to to remain in the game too long, ultimately charged for three additional runs, all scoring after two were out. I realize the bullpen is no great shakes, but neither is Verlander after the fifth or sixth inning this season. By keeping his starter in the game too long, Ausmus allowed a game which was still in reach to turn into a blowout and turned an average Verlander start into a poor one.
Indians Drum Guy: THE MOST ANNOYING THING IN SPORTS, BAR NONE.
Tribe fans: Tonight's attendance — 11,739. Pitiful.
Removed from last night's game after taking a foul ball off his mask, Alex Avila was kept out of tonight's lineup. It was just a precautionary measure, Brad Ausmus saying Avila could have played, if needed.
I'm happily surprised (even stunned) when I see a good defensive play from the Tigers. Rajai Davis supplied one in the first inning, covering a great deal of ground before making a lunging, sliding catch in deep left-center to take extra bases away from Michael Bourn.
The Tribe drew first blood for the second consecutive night in the exact same fashion. In both cases, it would be Carlos Santana
with a candlestick in the library going yard with two down in the first inning, a two-run shot to right giving the Indians a 2-0 lead.
Squandering began in earnest for the Tigers. Through the first three innings, they bounced into a pair of double-plays; Torii Hunter with no one out in the first, Ian Kinsler to end the third.
The Indians aren't known for their defense, showing why in the fourth. Victor Martinez followed Miguel Cabrera's single with one of his own. Right fielder Zach Walters nonchalanted the ball to the point where it bounced off the heel of his glove, the 107th error of the season for the Tribe allowed the runners to advance into scoring position. But just as last night, the Tigers would waste a prime time scoring opportunity. J.D. Martinez struck out looking on three pitches, Nick Castellanos bouncing to short to strand a pair.
The Tigers aren't known for their defense, showing why in the fourth. Jason Kipnis on first base, Lonnie Chisenhall doubled into the right field corner. Indians third-base coach Mike Sarbaugh waved Kipnis around. There would have been a bang-bang play at the plate — if catcher Bryan Holaday had caught the ball. The one-hop throw from Kinsler caromed off his bare hand, skipping to the backstop. Kipnis was safe and Chisenhall had advanced to third.
Yan Gomes followed, sending a pop fly into short right. The pop fly behind the bag is the toughest play for a first baseman to make, even tougher for someone who isn't a natural first sacker. Despite it being a far easier play for the second baseman and Kinsler arriving at the ball as the same time as Martinez, the converted DH tried to make the play ... and failed miserably. The ball dropped for an RBI single and a 4-0 Indians advantage.
The Tribe tacked on three runs after two were out in the seventh, turning the game into a laugher. After giving runs on two-out hits by Michael Bourn and Jose Ramirez, Verlander was pulled for Pat McCoy. He would allow an inherited runner to score on a Michael Brantley single, capping off the Tribe's scoring.
The white flag was waved by Brad Ausmus when the Tribe pulled away. Hernan Perez, Don Kelly, Steven Moya and James McCann all saw action late.
STREAKS AND STATS:
August was unkind to Miguel Cabrera, hitting an extremely uncharacteristic .252/.354/.336 with just one home run. He ended one of his worst months as a Tiger on a 5-for-35 skid. September has been far kinder to Cabrera, who has three straight multi-hit games to start the month, 8-for-13 in the three games versus Cleveland.
Victor Martinez ended last month on a tear, 14-for-37 while ending August slashing .350/.442/.547. Martinez posted his best monthly numbers since his unconscious May. He's remained white-hot in September, 6-for-11 against the Tribe in three games.
Nick Castellanos' seventh inning double extended his hitting streak to five games.
By tossing nine shutout innings tonight, Tribe starter Danny Salazar has a 1.08 ERA with 23 strikeouts in 25 innings over four starts. In 12 starts since April 27, Salazar has a 2.73 ERA with 69 K in 1 1/3 innings.
James McCann's first career at-bat was uneventful. Pinch-hitting in the ninth, McCann was the first out of the inning, bouncing to second.
Steven Moya must think the big leagues are a piece of cake, he's now 2-for-2 in his short career. His ninth inning pinch-hitting appearance resulted a single to left.
Via ESPN Stats and Info: This is eighth time Justin Verlander has allowed at least five earned runs in a game in 2014. From 2010-12, Verlander combined for 8 such games.
But it's not all gloom and doom for Verlander.
JV's K rate is above 7 per 9! And his FIP is below 4.00.— #NoHubris (@tokarzontigers) September 4, 2014
Three games in Detroit on tap starting Monday, Royals have been treading water, 5-5 over their last ten games. The Tigers have been marginally better at 6-4.
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