DETROIT, MI - JUNE 06: Michael Brantley #23 of the Cleveland Indians hits a three-run home run in the first inning and is congratulated by teammates Johnny Damon #33 and Shin-soo Choo #17 during the game against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park on June 6, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Right now is a good time to be playing Detroit. Alex Avila became the latest Tiger to be placed on the Disabled List, and the overall play has been poor, leading to comments like this from manager Jim Leyland:
"Our knees are a little wobbly right now. We're in a corner," Leyland said. "You can feel sorry for yourself or you can come out swinging.
"We'll find out. I don't want any excuses. Sometimes when you get injuries, subconsciously that's a little bit of a built-in excuse. I'm going to come out swinging. I'm not going to stand there and let people get me."
The Tigers were in a somewhat similar spot at this time last year, but the Indians have been making sure that, at least for a while, there's no hot streak on the horizon. The hits came early and often in a 9-6 victory in Detroit, and the outburst started, appropriately enough, with a defensive miscue. With two outs in the first, Carlos Santana hit a pop fly into shallow right field, but when Brennan Boesch tried to make the catch, the ball bounced off his glove, and instead of the inning being over, there were now runners on first and third. Michael Brantley didn't leave Boesch and the Tigers off the hook, hammering a Max Scherzer pitch deep into the right field seats for a three-run homer.
Jeanmar Gomez at least initially looked decent enough, though he did receive some help from his defense. Asdrubal Cabrera made another Golden Hand play, barehanding a swinging bunt to nab Delmon Young at first. This play came just after Johnny Damon took a home run away from Prince Fielder. The first few innings illustrated starkly the difference between having a defense help and hurt a starting pitcher, but Gomez eventually started leaving the ball up so that no caliber of defense would be turning the hits he allowed into outs.
But fortunately for Gomez, he had excellent timing, for his opposite number was in the process of being shelled. Max Scherzer, who has good strikeout/walk ratios but paradoxically horrible hit/run ratios, was hammered for eight runs (five earned) on seven hits and three walks. He only struck out two batters, a sign of how bad he was. He allowed two home runs, one of course Brantley's three-run shot, the other a Casey Kotchman homer in the fourth. An inning later, the Indians would force him out with Johnny Damon's two-run single the back breaker.
The Indians led 8-2 going into the bottom of the fifth, so Jeanmar Gomez had a sizable margin to work with. But he lost no time in making the margin disappear, allowing five hits and four runs in the bottom of the inning. If a line drive hadn't been hit right at Lonnie Chisenhall to end the inning, he probably wouldn't have stuck around to be in line for the "five and fly" win.
Gomez's early exit left a tall task for the Tribe bullpen. Manny Acta opted to go with Tony Sipp to get through the sixth. Sipp had burned Acta before in similar situations, but this time he did a good job, retiring the side in order. After that, Acta went with his usual guys: Smith in the seventh, Pestano in the eighth, and Chris Perez in the ninth. If not for a communications snafu between Choo and Brantley in the ninth, the bullpen would have thrown four perfect innings, but they instead settled for four shutout frames.