Just in the nick of time, the Cleveland bats woke up, and the Indians got themselves back into a first-place tie.
Fausto Carmona got into trouble early yet again, giving up a first inning homer to Brennan Boesch on a misplaced fastball. That should have been the extent of the damage, but Jack Hannahan couldn't handle the hop on a Miguel Cabrera grounder. The play was ruled a single, but even with the bad hop, the ball should have been handled. LGFT Victor Martinez doubled, and two batters later, Alex Avila singled to push the lead to 3-0. Given how dismal the offense had been (since June 2, the Indians had scored more than 3 runs in a game just three times), it seemed that 3-run lead, even with Brad Penny on the mound, was insurmountable.
But Brad Penny brought out the best in the lineup. The Indians singled twice in the second inning, and while that seems inconsequential, that was as much offense as we've seen from the team in several games. Two more runners reached in the third, and then - finally - the Indians broke through in the fourth. Six Indians reached base in the inning, and two of the three outs were sacrifices (Jack Hannahan's sac bunt, and a well-hit Grady Sizemore sacrifice fly). By the time the innings was over, the Indians led 4-3, Penny was pulled, and we had a ballgame.
Fausto Carmona meanwhile, made every out seem a challenge. His sinker had a significant horizontal movement, which led to hitter's counts much of the time. He got through five innings, but just getting that far was an ordeal. He ended the fifth with a called strikeout, so perhaps that nice ending will carry over into his next start.
From the sixth on, in was a battle of bullpens. Tigers manager Jim Leyland had four left-handers in his bullpen, and he used three of them in a row after Penny left. But the Indians would score a run apiece against Charlie Furbush and Daniel Schlereth, and left-handed Shin-Soo Choo was in the middle of both runs. He singled against both southpaws, and would score both runs. He would score in the fifth on Orlando Cabrera's double, and in the seventh on Matt LaPorta's swinging bunt.
The Tribe bullpen came up big again, not allowing a hit in four innings of work. Chris Perez retired the Tigers in order, leaving Miguel Cabrera on the on-deck circle.
If the Indians win this afternoon, they will have finished their difficult road trip in sole possession of first place, and just a half-game in the standings below where they were when they started the trip.
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