CLEVELAND: Max Scherzer took over the game Tuesday night, and there was nothing the Indians could do about it, as the Detroit Tigers earned a 5-1 decision at Progressive Field.
For the second time in two weeks, Corey Kluber had the misfortune to go up against Scherzer and for the second time finished second.
Scherzer teased the Tribe by giving up a run in the first inning then put on a pitching clinic for the succeeding seven innings.
Michael Bourn led off the first with a single and took third on Asdrubal Cabrera’s one-out bloop single. Michael Brantley followed with a sacrifice fly to score Bourn, but after that the Indians’ fun was over.
“Scherzer looked pretty nasty from where I was,” manager Terry Francona said.
“He was dominant.”
Scherzer delivered seven perfect innings from the second through the eighth, striking out seven from the fifth through the eighth.
He punctuated his outing by striking out Jason Giambi, Mike Aviles and Drew Stubbs in the eighth. How much did the fatigue of throwing 118 pitches take out of him? Scherzer whiffed Giambi on a 97-mph fastball and got Stubbs on a 98-mph heater.
“When you get up to 118 pitches and have that much left in the tank, it’s pretty good,” Francona said.
What made Scherzer (6-0, 3.61 ERA) such a tough read?
“He’s good,” Bourn said. “He had his good stuff tonight — fastball and change-up, and he had his slider working. He got us tonight, but we’ll be back tomorrow.”
Strikeouts were the ostentatious statistic of the game. Tribe batsmen went down on strikes seven times; the Tigers succumbed 14 times. Prince Fielder was victimized four times.
Kluber’s undoing was strange, indeed, considering the way he pitched until that point. But Andy Dirks opened the sixth inning with a home run on a 3-and-1 pitch to put the Tigers on the scoreboard. Torii Hunter followed with a double to the right-field fence, and Miguel Cabrera parked Kluber’s 0-and-1 pitch over the wall in center for two more runs.
Although Kluber (3-3, 5.19 ERA) allowed another hit during the inning, he struck out the side after the damage had been done.
“Corey was extremely aggressive; he was crisp,” Francona said.
“In that long inning [sixth], he went away just a little from attacking.”
Francona sees improvement in Kluber, despite the result Tuesday night.
“I think he’s getting better,” Francona said. “He’s learning, and he’s getting more confident. He just made a mistake to the wrong guy.”
Kluber saw his bad inning as a case of making too many mistakes.
“I made three mistakes,” he said.
When he got behind in the count on Dirks, Kluber said he still had a chance to recover.
“Even when you get behind, you have to execute,” he said. “I didn’t execute that 3-and-1 pitch. The ball was out over the middle of the plate.”
In the larger scheme of things, Tribe pitchers “manhandled” Cabrera, holding him to one homer and bloop single. In the seventh, he struck out on Cody Allen’s 96-mile-per-hour fastball. For his brief career, Allen has faced Cabrera four times and struck him out all but once.
Keep in mind that Cabrera hit three home runs on Sunday, but the Tiger lost to the Texas Rangers, anyway.
The first hint of trouble for Kluber came in the fifth inning, when the first two batters, Victor Martinez and Jhonny Peralta, singled. But Kluber got the side out without allowing either runner to advance.
Until the fifth, Kluber had it all his way, giving up just one hit and striking out four. He lasted 6⅓ innings, giving up all the runs on eight hits. He did not walk a batter and struck out eight.
Kluber was the losing pitcher on May 8, when the Tigers ran away with a 10-4 win at Comerica Park. In that game, Cabrera delivered a three-run homer and a double. Scherzer was the winning pitcher that night, giving up four runs in eight innings.
Cabrera didn’t hurt the Indians in the final two games of the series, both won by the Tribe. In fact, his error in the second game led to a run that helped the Tribe eke out a 7-6 victory.
Sheldon Ocker can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Indians blog at http://www.ohio.com/indians. Follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SheldonOckerABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.