This wasn’t the kind of game you expect the Tigers to win over the Indians. A tense, well-pitched and low scoring affair went the Tigers’ way on Saturday as they held on for a 2-1 victory.
Blaine Hardy tossed another nice game in this one. The Tigers didn’t want to push him beyond five innings, as he’d been in the bullpen for a few weeks, but Hardy gave them exactly what they hoped. He spun five innings of one-run ball, despite only striking out one batter.
Hardy walked Francisco Lindor to lead off the game, then quickly picked him off. The traffic continued throughout the first two innings, however, and Hardy allowed the only run of his outing in the second. From there, he settled in and, despite a tight strike zone from home plate umpire Ramon De Jesus, handled the Indians without much trouble.
The Tigers’ offense didn’t waste much time overtaking Cleveland. Jose Iglesias ripped a ground rule double to left field in the third inning. He then rode home on a laser over the left field wall off the bat of JaCoby Jones. The homer, Jones’ 8th on the year, gave the Tigers a 2-1 lead. Leonys Martin followed Jones with a single, and then advanced all the way to third on an errant pickoff throw. Jeimer Candelario lined out, and Nicholas Castellanos struck out to squander the gift.
Beyond that, Mike Clevinger was tough on the Tigers, as is his custom. Despite nearly being scratched from his start after battling the flu the past two days, Clevinger had little trouble with the Tigers overall. JaCoby Jones walked to lead off the fifth inning, then stole second base with ease and advanced to third on a flyout off the bat of Leonys Martin. Unfortunately, Clevinger dug down and punched out Jeimer Candelario and Nicholas Castellanos to escape any damage.
Hardy turned things over to Drew VerHagen in the sixth, and VerHagen spun two innings of one-hit ball. He only struck out one batter, but showed a little more over-the-top action on his slider. More than anything his command was blessedly solid.
The offense blew a chance to build on their one-run lead in the seventh. Jim Adduci singled, then stole second base on a hit-and-run, as Jose Iglesias reached on a Yonder Alonso error at first. Iglesias promptly stole second on Indians reliever Zach McAllister, and then Victor Reyes drew a walk to load the bases. After Leonys Martin popped out, it was once again up to Candelario and Castellanos, and once again, the Tigers’ two best bats left the bases littered with LOBsters. Candelario hit a shallow pop fly to right, and Castellanos whiffed for the third time in the game. The pair had left 10 men on base combined to this point in the contest.
The backend of the pen was up to the task despite the slender lead. Joe Jimenez had a scary moment in the eighth when Edwin Encarnacion drove a fly ball into the right centerfield gap, but Leonys Martin ran it down. Shane Greene pitched a clean ninth for his 21st save on the year.
Who was the Tigers’ player of the game?
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Blaine Hardy (W): 5.0 IP, ER, 4 H, 2 BB SO
JaCoby Jones: 1-1, R, 2 RBI, HR, BB, SB