I made this statement on the live blog earlier, but if you would’ve told me on Monday that the Indians would sweep the Tigers, AND beat Justin Verlander in a dreaded noon weekday game, I probably would’ve laughed at you. Yes, I know that this is very similar to the first half of the season last year. And yes, I know that the Tigers are probably not going to play sub-.500 ball for the rest of the season. At the same time, something feels a bit different this year. It’s not just because of the fact that this Indians team may be better equipped to last throughout the season, because they certainly have their flaws. It’s also the fact that Detroit doesn’t seem as indestructible as they did last season. Jose Valverde has proved that he’s a mortal, while Alex Avila and Jhonny Peralta have come back to Earth a bit. Verlander is every bit as good as he always is, but unfortunately (for them) he can only pitch once every five days.
Speaking of Verlander, he was dealing again today, as he typically does against his opponents. He threw 117 pitches and pitched a complete game, giving up 2 ER on 6 hits, striking out 7. While holding your opponent to 2 runs on 6 hits is often enough to get your team the victory, Justin Masterson did an even better job of shutting down the Detroit offense and kept them limited to 1 ER on 5 hits with 4 strikeouts through 7 innings. Once again, the bullpen shut the door – Vinnie Pestano pitched a perfect 8th inning, even though he failed to strike out a batter (this broke his streak of 23 straight relief appearances with a strikeout.) Chris Perez came on for his 15th straight save. Even though he gave up a single, it didn’t really matter in the long run.
The Indians put their two runs across the plate with a leadoff home run from Shin-Soo Choo, who hit a monster shot at 444 feet, and from a Jose Lopez single that scored Michael Brantley. While I love Jack Hannahan (particularly for his defensive skills), I’m loving Lopez right now. He was designated for assignment, cleared waivers, and reported to Triple-A Columbus earlier this season. He made his way back, and has made a major case to not only stay, but to earn regular at-bats.
There was a bit of controversy during the 5th inning, when Detroit’s first base coach, Tom Brookens, and manager Jim Leyland were both ejected for arguing over a Justin Masterson balk in the 5th inning. Upon the replay (it was impossible to tell from the stands, we weren’t even sure what happened until I looked it up on my phone) it did look as if Masterson failed to come to a complete stop. While you can never know what would’ve happened if the balk was called, the rest of the inning was fairly uneventful. It’s hard to imagine that a called balk would have made a huge outcome in the final score of the game.
This is the kind of game that you celebrate if you’re the victor, and you lament your team’s shortcomings if you are the loser. Because the Indians’ flaws were quite apparent to me during this game today, but damned if I can’t remember a single one of them at this point!