DETROIT: Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis was proud he left no visual evidence of his angry clubhouse outburst after being ejected in the third inning for arguing a generous strike zone.
“I’m not going to say I didn’t do anything,” Kipnis confessed after being tossed for the first time in his life.
Following a 7-5 loss Thursday afternoon to the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park, some of Kipnis’ teammates surely felt like joining him.
Right-hander Danny Salazar cruised through three innings, but fell apart in the fifth, giving up a three-run homer to Ian Kinsler in a four-run inning. Salazar struggled for the second consecutive outing and could be one start away from a demotion to Triple-A Columbus.
The Indians’ defense was not sharp, committing two errors, one on catcher Yan Gomes’ bad throw on a steal of second base, another on a pickoff move by reliever C.C. Lee. Those came on top of two miscues Wednesday night.
The Tribe executed its game plan perfectly against Tigers right-hander Justin Verlander, the 2011 American League Cy Young winner. The Indians got his pitch count up early and knocked Verlander out of the game after five innings, giving themselves a chance against a suspect middle relief corps.
Lonnie Chisenhall recorded the first four-hit day of his career and Michael Brantley’s four-RBI performance included a two-run homer to left in the seventh that closed the gap to 6-5. But the Tigers’ Joba Chamberlain and Joe Nathan shut the Indians down in the final two innings.
The Indians (7-8) split the two-game series and headed back to Cleveland for a seven-game homestand against Toronto and Kansas City that starts today.
Salazar’s tough outing gave the Indians’ front office plenty to think about. He lasted just 4⅔ innings after going 3⅔ April 10 against the White Sox. Salazar threw only 47 pitches through four innings. But after the Indians took a 3-1 lead on Brantley’s two-run single in the top of the fifth, Salazar lost it.
He walked the Nos. 7 and 8 hitters, Alex Avila and Alex Gonzalez before Rajai Davis popped out. Then on a 3-1 pitch to Kinsler, Salazar left a fastball up that Kinsler crushed for his second home run of the season. Austin Jackson delivered his second RBI sacrifice fly with the bases loaded for a 5-3 lead before Lee took over.
“It’s not necessarily bad walking some of their hitters; you’ve just got to walk the right ones,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “[Salazar] threw a 3-2 breaking ball to Avila in the dirt, then lost the strike zone.”
Salazar said he tried to “get too aggressive and too perfect and I just lost control.”
“You give up a walk, then I started putting too many things in my mind,” he said. “ ‘Maybe I’m pulling a little bit, maybe my arm is behind.’ That’s when I lost control on every pitch. I need to start watching videos of last year and this year to see what I’m doing different.”
He returned home more frustrated than Kipnis, even though Kipnis said the only time he may have left a game early was when his mother took him out in Little League.
In the third, Kipnis was upset with a called first-pitch strike he thought was low and struck out on three pitches with the bases loaded. When he told home plate umpire Lance Barrett what he thought, Barrett quickly ejected him.
“I didn’t think I showed him up. I thought I was just walking away,” Kipnis said. “I told him, ‘That first pitch changed the whole bleeping at-bat and you don’t need to be bleeping helping this guy.’
“He tossed me; he has every right to do that. I don’t think Lance is a bad guy, I don’t even think he’s a bad umpire. He was expanding [the strike zone] a little bit even before my at-bat. I’ve said a lot worse and not gotten tossed. Maybe they owed me one, the umpiring crew.”
Marla Ridenour can be reached at email@example.com. Read her blog at www.ohio.com/marla. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.