It has now been two full weeks since a Cleveland Indians starting pitcher went at least seven innings. With Derek Lowe's outing this afternoon, Tribe starters are now 14-for-56 on the season in lasting seven innings or more. That dreadful 25% number is straining a talented bullpen and it's asking too much from an inconsistent offense. It will have to change if this team hopes to move back to the top of the American League Central.
Remarkably, the Tribe nearly climbed out of the six-run hole handed off by Derek Lowe. To be fair, Lowe was a bit of a BABIP victim in the first inning, as the Tigers circled the bases thanks to a combination of line drives and luckbox groundballs. A key moment came in the top of the fourth inning. Jose Lopez's double put the Indians on the board, and after a Prince Fielder mental lapse, Shelley Duncan arrived at the plate with two runners on base and one out. He got ahead in the count, then missed two middle-of-the-dish meatballs by pulling them foul. Duncan then grounded into a double play to end the threat.
The game turned quickly back to a comfortable lead for Detroit. Lowe got hammered for three more runs, two of which came on a home run from Miguel Cabrera.
At that point it looked like a stroll for the Tigers. A weekday crowd of 41,000 for a third-place team seemed to enjoy the notion of a stress-free day. Manny Acta wasn't about to burn his best relievers. He didn't have to, as Scott Barnes and Jeremy Accardo shut down the Tigers the rest of the way, and the offense rallied.
In the sixth, Cabrera walked and the almost shockingly fast Kipnis legged out a double. Carlos Santana, mired in a 1-20 slump and looking helpless most at bats these days, grounded out to plate one run. Jose Lopez's sac fly scored another.
In the seventh, a two-out rally began with singles from Marson and Choo. Asdrubal ripped a double against the left field wall, plating two more. Kipnis beat out an infield single, and when Santana walked, the go-ahead run was on base. Fangraphs appeared to be having a seizure when Jose Lopez connected on a pitch at his chin against hard-throwing Joaquin Benoit. But in Detroit, center field is where awkward routes to the ball confuse announcers into thinking the outfielder made a great catch. That's what Quintin Berry did, flagging down the drive roughly 405 feet from home plate. A Progressive Field home run became a Comerica flyout.
One more opportunity came and went in the eighth, when Brantley and Kotchman benefited from some BABIP love of their own. But after an innocuous at bat from Lou Marson, Shin Soo Choo looked overmatched, eventually guessing wrong on a hanging 3-2 changeup and sending a soft pop fly.
A comeback victory could have sent Jim Leyland to counseling and the Tiger clubhouse into turmoil. Instead, the Tigers finally win a game against the Tribe, and Cleveland heads to St. Louis for a weekend series with the Cardinals. Our old friend Jake Westbrook greets Cleveland Friday night.