DETROIT: The difference between victory and defeat doesn’t often come down to one at-bat.
But that’s exactly what happened in the Indians’ 7-5 loss to the Detroit Tigers Thursday afternoon at Comerica Park.
When the Tribe fell behind 7-1 after four innings, it looked like the Tigers could coast home, having finally beaten the Wahoos after six tries. But with two out in the seventh, with two runs home and bases loaded, the Indians trailed by only two runs with Jose Lopez at the plate.
Lopez picked on a high fastball from Joaquin Benoit and launched a drive to center field. Quintin Berry chased it, realized he had turned the wrong way and made a mid-course correction, finally backpedaling as the ball continued to carry.
An instant before the ball sailed over his head, Berry left his feet and picked the ball out of the air 380 feet from the plate to end the inning. It was a tough play for Berry, but even tougher for the Tribe. Had Berry not made the catch, the ball would have rolled another 40 feet to the base of the wall for a bases-clearing double, or maybe even a triple. But instead of taking an 8-7 lead, the Indians still trailed by two runs.
Frustrating for Lopez?
“No, not at all,” he said. “I didn’t play for two days and hit the ball really good. It was not an easy play. We had two more innings to catch them, and even though we didn’t, we won the series.”
Indians manager Manny Acta was thinking double, at least.
“I thought it was over his head, because Jose didn’t hit it too high,” he said. “But Berry is a pretty good athlete and fast. He recovered pretty well and made the catch.”
Acta talked less about the pivotal play than the overall pattern of the game. The lesson to be learned: Don’t fall behind by six runs.
For the second time in three starts, Derek Lowe gave up four runs in the first inning.
“These guys had the same approach as the White Sox,” Lowe said. “It doesn’t matter how long you play the game, you have to make adjustments. Two of the last three teams I faced have been ultra aggressive in the first inning [swinging at the sinker]. I got a few sinkers up, and they took advantage. I probably needed to mix in more curveballs early in the game.”
Lowe (7-4, 3.72 ERA) did that, but too late, because he couldn’t afford to give up more runs. Unfortunately for him, the Tigers got to him again in the fourth inning, when Brennan Boesch doubled home a run and scored on Miguel Cabrera’s home run.
“That pitch to Cabrera was down and in, and he still managed to hit it out,” Acta said.
“If you pitch bad, you better learn from it,” Lowe said.
He tried to persuade Acta to let him stay in the game after allowing seven runs in five innings, but Acta wouldn’t buy his argument.
“This is my third start with an extra day [of rest] and my next two will be the same way,” Lowe said. “Why blow through the bullpen when we’re on a long road trip? But that’s Manny’s job. I have to respect his decision. He allowed me to speak my mind, and I lost. He probably figured out I wasn’t going to get any better.”
Lowe ended his work day by taking his anger out on a Gatorade cooler in the dugout, as ice flew everywhere.
“That was just for giving up seven runs,” he said.
The Tribe offense was battling rookie Casey Crosby, making only his second major-league appearance. In his first, he was shelled for six runs in 3⅓ innings by the New York Yankees. But despite his inexperience, he had a powerful weapon: He throws with his left arm.
Still, the Indians were not helpless against him, scoring three times in 5⅓ innings, despite grounding into two rally-killing double plays.
“I like him,” Acta said of Crosby (1-1, 9.35 ERA). “He’s a young kid, but he’s got pretty good stuff. He probably has been pressed into service before they wanted him to be.”
For a change of pace, the Tribe scored two runs off the Tigers’ bullpen. Until the sixth inning Wednesday night, the Indians had been held scoreless by opposing relievers for 24 innings.
“It was a good series for us overall,” Acta said. “But seven runs was a little too much to overcome.”
After winning twice against the Tigers, the Tribe will travel to St. Louis and Cincinnati for interleague games against the Cardinals and Reds before returning home.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/sports.abj.