CLEVELAND: All right, so perhaps all of the talk of the imminent demise of the Detroit Tigers as the American League Central division’s top power was a bit exaggerated.
After surviving an awful 9-20 stretch that just so happened to begin with a sweep by the Indians last month, the mighty Tigers showed they still have plenty of teeth in their bite. After the Indians dropped the first two games of the weekend series in close fashion, Detroit punctuated the return sweep of the Tribe with a 10-4 pounding Sunday at Progressive Field.
It was a disaster of a game. The three ninth-inning runs the Indians scored were off of Detroit pitcher Chad Smith, who was making his major-league debut. The Tribe was all but out of the game after 4½ innings.
After taking a 2-0 lead on a Miguel Cabrera solo home run in the first inning and an RBI single in the third, the Tigers broke open the game with a seven-run fifth inning aided by two Tribe errors.
Meanwhile, all the Indians’ offense could muster against Detroit starter Max Scherzer (9-3, 3.71 ERA) came in the fifth, when manager Terry Francona challenged a double play that would have ended the inning. But after a short review, the call was overturned and Michael Bourn took first base with a fielder’s choice. Two batters later, he scored on a Michael Brantley double.
But that was the only run Scherzer allowed as he struck out eight over six strong innings.
“He had his off speed stuff working,” said Tribe second baseman Jason Kipnis. “I call him the most comfortable 0-for-4 because you see the pitches, you just can’t touch them. It’s a compliment to him because I see what I’m trying to do, I just can’t do it.”
The Tigers also had a double play overturned in the ninth inning — as if they needed it. Even when the Tribe’s bats came alive with two outs against Smith with four consecutive hits by George Kottaras, Bourn, Cabrera and Brantley, the rally only tacked on three insignificant runs.
Josh Tomlin (4-5, 4.39 ERA) was struggling with his command without the double whammy of another poor showing by the club’s defense. When the right-hander appeared to have induced speedy Austin Jackson into a double play to erase the single Ian Kinsler started the inning with, Cabrera dropped the ball. Two batters later, Bourn bobbled and then dropped a ball off the bat of Victor Martinez after racing into shallow center field and awkwardly landing on his rear end in a heap — resulting in the bases loaded with no outs.
“They just blew it open, and we helped them,” Francona said of the Indians’ three-error day with a Lonnie Chisenhall throwing error in the eighth added to the mix. “They don’t need any help.”
The mistakes were like waving a chunk of raw meat in front of the Tigers, as they teed off one batter after another until they’d batted around and sent 12 to the plate. With Tomlin’s day done after eight runs (five earned), it took two Tribe relievers to halt the attack.
“They’re a good team, no doubt,” Tomlin said. “We’re capable of beating them, we just didn’t. It’s just how it goes. We swept them the first time they came here and they swept us when they came here again. When we face them again, we just gotta do a better job against them.”
Stephanie Storm can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Indians blog at www.ohio.com/indians. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abj.sports.