It’s a bit ironic that on the Sunday before Labor Day, the Indians’ pitchers had to labor very little to shut out their division nemesis, 4-0, and take the three-game series in Detroit.
Tribe starter Cody Anderson was superb as he mostly breezed through seven strong innings while giving up only 2 hits. In both the fourth and fifth innings, the Tigers started with men on first and second and nobody out. But both times, Anderson induced double-play grounders, turned expertly by the Tribe infielders, to get him out of the jams without yielding a run.
The sixth inning was Verlander’s undoing, with just about everything going the Tribe’s way. Michael Martinez, recently called up from Columbus, started the frame with a roller through the box that turned out to be his first of three singles for the day. With a 3-2 count on the next batter, Jason Kipnis, the speedy Martinez was off with the payoff pitch. Good thing, too, as Tigers’ second baseman Andrew Romine speared a sizzling grounder backhanded off of Kipnis and made an adroit flip to the shortstop covering second. But with Martinez’s early break on the pitch, the throw was too late to get him, and Kipnis beat the relay to first (although it took an umpire review to get that call right).
With men on first and second, Francisco Lindor was showing bunt all the way on the first two pitches. Verlander grooved a fastball, and Lindor went from bunt mode to beast mode, swatting a liner to the wall in right center for a stand-up triple and 2 RBI. Two batters later, Carlos Santana coaxed a bloop single off the end of his bat to plate Lindor.
The Tribe’s insurance run came in the ninth. Almonte singled and moved to second on a gift wild pitch from reliever Neftali Feliz (feliz navidad?). Martinez completed an impressive day with his third single up the middle to collect his RBI.
It’s been a rare feat during the past several seasons for the Tribe to take a series from the Tigers. Let’s hope they do it again when Detroit visits Cleveland later this week.