Indians top Tigers on a balk-off, sweep three-game series
Surging Tribe offense helps team get their first sweep of the season
CLEVELAND--They never flinched.
“I don’t even know where to start with that game,” Tribe outfielder David Murphy said. “I don’t know if that was a baseball game or a marathon combined with a circus.”
Trailing first place Detroit by 10 1/2 games amidst a four-game losing streak, some laughed at the idea that the Indians could tangle with the Tigers.
It wasn’t easy, but three games later, Cleveland tamed them enough to pull their own circus act: A series sweep.
Wednesday afternoon was no different. Scoring 11 runs on 17 hits, the Tribe edged Detroit, 11-10, winning the game on a walk-off balk in the bottom of the 13th inning.
“I didn’t know it was going to end,” manager Terry Francona said. “That was one of the more fun games I’ve been a part of. Obviously to be able to come out on the winning side, but either way, we took enormous steps to getting that personality and chemistry, all those things that you talk about and you’re dying to get.”
Trailing 10-9 in the 13th, Mike Aviles led off the inning with a base-hit and advanced to second on a well executed sacrifice bunt by Michael Bourn. Both players collected three hits on the afternoon in what amounted to a five hour 16 minute affair.
Tigers reliever Phil Coke (0-1, 7.43 ERA) then hit Asdrubal Cabrera to make way for the hottest Indians bat in the lineup. Michael Brantley lined a RBI single to left field for his fourth hit of the contest, tying the game up at 10 with one out.
“Brantley continues to be so good in so many areas,” Francona said. “Defensively or on bases, he’s just turned into a premier player.”
Acting manager and Detroit bench coach Gene Lamont brought in right-hander Al Alburquerque one batter later, issuing an intentional walk to pinch hitter Yan Gomes to load the bases for the struggling Ryan Raburn.
Alburquerque wouldn’t throw a pitch to Raburn, balking to bring in the winning run from third.
“If he didn’t call it, we were going to call it,” Francona said. “We did so many things well. We made some mistakes, but we picked each other up, and the good part is it showed on the scoreboard. But regardless, if we play like that with that much passion, we’re going to be fine.”
The victory gives Cleveland (22-25) their first series sweep of the season, already matching their win total against Detroit all of last year winning four of the first five meetings.
I love the way we battled,” Murphy said. “From our very first at-bat, you felt like our offense was going to be up to something today. It was a lot of fun to watch. I wish it wouldn’t have taken five and a half hours, but it was fun.”
Murphy played an integral part in the win, going 2-for-6 with double, homer and four RBI. With the Tribe trailing 9-7 with one out in the bottom of the ninth, it was Murphy’s two-run homer off Tigers closer Joe Nathan that gave his team the lift they needed late.
“That was a great feeling,” he said. “I’ve been relying on the Lord’s strength all year long and today was no different. Getting a big hit like that to lift your teammates, there’s no better feeling than that.”
Signed to a 2-year, $12 million deal this winter, Murphy has been one of the club’s most consistent contributors, hitting .294 with five homers and 30 RBI.
It was a back-and-fourth seesaw battle from the very beginning Wednesday. Tribe starter Zach McAllister had a rough go for the second straight start, surrendering five runs (four earned) on five hits in just two innings of work.
“It’s two starts in a row that have not gone well at all for me,” he said. “I know I can pitch better. I’m just leaving some pitches over the middle of the plate. I wasn’t able to pick our guys up and it’s frustrating.”
Starting the year 3-0, McAllister is now 0-4 with a 9.51 ERA over his last six starts, giving up 25 earned runs over 23 2/3 innings.
Trailing 4-1 in the second, his offense battled to pick him up, scoring five runs on six hits in the inning off reining American League Cy Young winner Max Scherzer. The Tribe sent 10 men to the plate, as Aviles, Brantley, Murphy and Nick Swisher each chimed in with RBI hits. The Tigers ace would go seven tough innings, but yielded seven runs on 12 hits along the way.
“It’s the type of day that we had,” Murphy said. “Nobody is going to say die, nobody was going to throw in the towel. Everybody’s going to go up there and fight till it was over.”
Neither was the bullpen, which was summoned by the third inning and taxed the entire ballgame.
Cleveland would use seven different relievers over nine innings, giving up just three runs. Francona turned to starter Josh Tomlin (3-1, 2.91 ERA) to pitch the 11th, despite the right-hander scheduled to start Thursday.
“It was either going to end strange or be a home run I feel like,” Tomlin said.
Tossing three solid innings in relief, Tomlin served up home run to Detroit catcher Alex Avila in the top of the 13th, and it looked like it would be the final blow in the ballgame
Then the Tigers flinched, sending the Indians to their third straight victory. Scoring just eight runs on 27 hits over their last four games before Monday, the Tribe offense banged out 22 runs on 43 hits against Detroit in the series.
“For us to take care of business and sweep them, hopefully that builds momentum going on the road,” Tomlin said. “It was an exciting game, we’re just fortunate to be on the top end of it.”
“We needed it,” Francona said.
Up next for Indians: The Tribe hits the road and travels to Baltimore to take on the first place Orioles for a four-game series, beginning Thursday at 7:05 p.m. Cleveland will have to make a roster move for a starter before the game before being opposed by left-hander Wei-Yin Chen (5-2, 3.69 ERA).
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at email@example.com.
I know Santana has been better in the past but I don't believe he will ever live up to what was expected of him as a top 10 prospect in all of baseball. He is average at best even during his better years. Outside of 1 year where he had 27 home runs his career BA is 245 with an slightly above average OPS of 793 Like I said, I just don't see why he is that invaluable to be playing on an everyday basis
Santana has been better than this year by a wide margin; the more likely scenario than trading him is when they will just make him an emergency 3B and relegating him to 1B/DH/C. I'm not convinced he's better than Chisenhall or Aviles- marginally at most. The questionable upgrade is not worth his bat, never mind the fact that Chisenhall has proven he deserves more playing time, plus Aviles can play against tough lefties at 3B if needed.
Tony, can Lee be called back yet, or has he not been down long ago? I think that's a "no," right? I'm not convinced Pestano is back to his old self: his BB/S ratios have largely not been good, even on the few occasions when he has put up a solid line, so I don't expect it to translate to success up here, but rather be the more erratic performances we saw earlier this year. Hope I'm wrong on that, but I don't think he's ready- would prefer another option, even on a short-term basis.
Unless the Indians can get Giambi to come up lame with another calf injury, they are going to have to add Davies or Banwart to the roster. Which means not only do they need to get someone off the 25-man roster in Cleveland, but they need to clear a 40-man spot. And they also have to send out a reliever so they can add a fresh arm (I'm betting Pestano gets a short call).
My guess is no mystery injury crops up that Banwart is the guy. If Giambi or someone else comes up lame then I say House gets the call.
Three game sweeps against a division leader are a rare and wonderful thing.. Let's see if it can be repeated in Baltimore..