The first five batters in the Indians lineup went a combined 0 for 17 against the Tigers tonight. The first seven hitters went 1 for 23.
The Indians were 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position. Each of the first three batters reached base via the walk, but yet they scored only one run in the inning. They made two errors in the field, one of which led to a late-inning run in a close game.
Yes, the Indians did a lot of things wrong at Comerica Park tonight. But somehow they did enough things right to beat the Tigers, 3-2. Zach McAllister went six strong innings for his second consecutive victory, and the bullpen went three innings without giving up an earned run.
Perhaps numbed by the cold, Tigers starter Anibal Sanchez had trouble finding the strike zone early on. Of the first 19 pitches he threw, only four were strikes. But with the bases loaded and nobody out, and with a hitter’s count of 2-1, cleanup hitter Carlos Santana hit Sanchez’ 20th pitch for a routine double play grounder to short, scoring leadoff hitter Michael Bourn, but virtually killing the Tribe’s chance for a big inning.
With the score tied at 1-1 in the second, Yan Gomes drove in two runs with a solid triple to deep right field. Although Sanchez settled down after that, retiring 12 of the next 13 batters he faced, McAllister pitched longer and better, leaving the game in the bottom of the seventh with the Tribe still ahead, 3-1. Bryan Shaw pitched a scoreless seventh. Cody Allen came out in the eighth, and the first two Tigers reached base thanks to an error by Jason Kipnis and a flawless bunt by Ian Kinsler. Things looked tense when Torii Hunter came to the plate, because the batter after Hunter is a fellow by the name of Miguel Cabrera, who’s been known to hit baseballs very hard and very far. But Hunter hit a ground ball to short, and the Indians managed to record two outs on a 6-3-6-3 double play. Cabrera did drive in the runner from third with a single, and the next batter singled as well, but Allen struck out Austin Jackson to end the inning with the Tribe ahead 3-2.
Tribe closer John Axford came out for the ninth. With one out, Alex Avila hit a ball to center for a double. When Michael Bourn bobbled the ball, Avila made it to third, thus putting the tying run 90 feet away. But Axford, who had a blown save in his last outing, retired the next two Tigers with a strikeout and a grounder to short, earning his fifth save of the season.
The win puts the Indians back at .500 with a record of 7-7. On Thursday afternoon, the Indians send the young Danny Salazar to the mound, and the Tigers will counter with their ace, Justin Verlander. Chris Burnham is supposed to write the recap for IPL, so look for rain or snow or a pestilence of locusts or something. Or maybe frogs. We haven’t seen that lately.