Avila homer sends Tigers over Indians, 5-4
Shaw serves up a two-run blast in the eighth, leading to crushing defeat
DETROIT—There’s no denying Bryan Shaw has been one of the most reliable arms for the Indians all year.
Yet, for a team still trying to claw their way to October, it’s one pitch from Shaw on Saturday that could leave his most lasting impression of the season.
Clinging to a 4-3 lead with two outs in the eighth, Detroit’s Alex Avila sent Cleveland to their most crushing defeat with one swing of the bat. The Tigers catcher connected on what became a game-winning two-run homer off Shaw, handing the Tribe a tough 5-4 loss Saturday night.
“The count goes full and he threw a slider that probably caught way too much of the plate,” manager Terry Francona said. “When you’re pitching in those situations and you make a mistake, it’s more glaring. That comes with the territory.”
Leading all of baseball having appeared in 73 games this year, the two runs Shaw (5-4, 2.42 ERA) allowed was just his third since August 1.
“It was just a bad pitch,” he said. “It was the right pitch, but a bad location. They’re who they are for a reason, you pitch them the way our scouting report tells us to pitch them. My arm feels great, and my body feels good. It was just one bad pitch.”
With hopes of another postseason berth hanging in the balance, the Indians (76-71) fall to a full five games back of the wild card race.
Struggling to score runs of late, Indians hitters came out swinging from the outset against Detroit southpaw Kyle Lobstein.
The left fielder raked his 19th homer to the seats in right field to give his team a quick two run lead. Brantley needs just seven RBI to become the first Tribe player since 2007 to drive in 100 runs in a single season.
After cruising through the first two innings, Cleveland starter Danny Salazar ran into trouble in the third. With Tigers at the corners and one out, Ian Kinsler gave Motown their first run of the game on a RBI single up the middle. One pitch later, Torii Hunter tied the game on sacrifice fly.
Then, Indian killer Victor Martinez made his presence known to his former club once again in the fourth, smashing his 31st homer of the season off Salazar to put Motor City up, 3-2.
“I got behind in the count,” Salazar said. “I wanted to get back in a good place and left that ball in the middle.”
Despite the long ball, the Tribe right-hander settled in nicely tossing 5 2/3 innings on the night, yielding just the three runs while walking one and striking out seven.
“I thought he started out real strong,” Francona said. “They went through that inning where they were kind of ambushing him a little bit. They scored their runs, but he reeled it back in. I thought he made some real big pitches in situations where they had runners in scoring position, and got us to a point where you think you can manage it and hold on.”
Offensively, the Wahoos kept giving their starter a cushion. After one out singles by Lonnie Chisenhall and Jesus Aguilar in the fifth, Aviles put Cleveland up 4-3 on a clutch two out, two-run double down the right field line off Lobstein.
It marked only the sixth time in their last 22 games the Indians scored at least four runs in a game.
There was just one problem.
“We just weren’t able to extend,” Francona said. “They’re a good team and when you play close games against them that is always a possibility.”
The Tribe would however have one more shot in the ninth to squeeze the tying run home with Jason Kipnis on second and one out. Tigers closer Joe Nathan wouldn’t waver, notching his 31st save of the year getting pitch hitter David Murphy to fly out and end the ballgame.
On Star Wars night at Comerica Park, Detroit reliever Joba Chamberlain (2-5, 3.39 ERA) picks up the win tossing a scoreless inning in the eighth.
“Obviously a loss like this is tough, but losing one game isn’t going to make a difference,” Shaw said. “We have to come and battle back tomorrow. Hopefully everything goes our way because we have an opportunity.”
Up next for Indians: The Wahoos look to salvage the three-game series with Detroit Sunday afternoon. Right-hander Trevor Bauer (5-8, 4.12 ERA) gets the start against six-time All-Star Justin Verlander (13-12, 4.82 ERA) at 1:08 p.m.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The team needs to restructure and some how find two right handed bats.
When I look at the Tigers I wonder how they ever lose. They have pitching and big time hitting. Our problem is simple - the O stinks.
That said, we have had leads late in 3 recent games against the Tigers and lost. The strength of the team has been the BP - and in crunch time it failed.