Martinez combo powers Tigers over Indians, 6-4
Kluber gives Tribe a quality start, but bats fall short late
CLEVELAND—Keep your friends close and your enemies closer.
Victor Martinez was once a friend of the Tribe, now he’s their most feared enemy.
Having played with the Indians for more than eight seasons from 2002-2009, Martinez led the offensive charge for the Tigers Friday night, as Detroit hung onto defeat Cleveland, 6-4.
Scoreless through the first three innings, the Tigers jumped out to a 2-0 lead on a homer by the former Tribe catcher in the fourth inning off starter Corey Kluber (6-5, 3.30 ERA).
“I felt pretty good for the most part,” the right-hander said. “I was able to pound the strike zone and get ahead of guys. Unfortunately, the mistake that I made to Victor ended up being a big one.”
The hit was the only blow Kluber surrendered Friday, going seven strong innings giving up just the two runs and striking out six.
“Seven innings and two runs,” manager Terry Francona said. “And that was on a base-hit by Miggy [Cabrera], and a first pitch fastball that caught too much of the plate that Victor hit. Other than that, he dodged his way through a really good lineup, made pitches when he had to and got us deep in the game.”
Having gone an undefeated 4-0 in the month of May, Kluber remains winless so far in June.
Martinez is now hitting .366 (70-for-191) with 21 doubles, eight homers and 44 RBI in 52 career games against his former club. His average leads all active opposing players facing the Indians.
A quality start for Kluber turned into a tough luck loss shortly after he exited, when Francona summoned John Axford from the bullpen to pitch the eighth.
Despite getting two outs in the inning, the right-hander threw a wild pitch which moved Miguel Cabrera to second. Intentionally walking Martinez, Axford then faced Detroit’s other Martinez—left fielder J.D. Martinez.
One pitch from Axford, and the Tigers outfielder slammed an opposite field three-run homer to right field, giving Detroit a 5-0 lead.
“He’s such a good first ball fastball hitter and that one caught way too much of the plate,” Francona said.
It was the first long ball the former Tribe closer allowed since May 5, and the third time the Martinez/Martinez combo homered in the same game this season—all three coming against Cleveland.
“I’m not trying to get it by him, just trying to throw a low and away fastball to try and get him to groundout,” Axford said. “That’s all that was.”
After the Martinez blast, it looked as though that would be plenty enough for the Tigers, who were rewarded with a great start from Rick Porcello (9-4, 3.76 ERA). The Detroit right-hander went six shutout innings, allowing just six base-hits.
“You’re just trying to pitch your game regardless,” Kluber said of Porcello’s outing. “In a close game it might magnify things a little bit, but it doesn’t change my approach.”
Held scoreless through the first seven innings, Tribe bats finally awoke in the eighth. Back-to-back base-hits byMike Aviles and Michael Bourn against Tigers reliever Ian Krol set up the inning for Asdrubal Cabrera.
On a hanging curveball from Krol, the shortstop launched a three-run homer to the bleachers in left giving the Indians their first runs of the ballgame. Two batters later it was Carlos Santana’s turn to go deep, belting his tenth long ball of the season to cut Detroit’s lead to just one run.
Since returning from the concussion list, Santana is now hitting .333 (16-for-48) with four homers and 11 RBI over his last 14 games. His .196 season batting average is the highest since April 11.
But it would be too little too late for Cleveland (37-37), as an insurance run by the Motor City Kitties in the ninth all but sealed the night’s fate.
“It’s certainly frustrating on its own, especially when trying to mount a comeback afterwards,” Axford said. “It’s a battle on its own.”
After winning ten straight at home, the Wahoo’s have now lost two of their last three at Progressive Field falling to three games behind Detroit in the Central Division.
Up next for Indians: The Tribe looks to even up the three game series with the Tigers on Saturday night. Having won all four of his career victories at Progressive Field, right-hander Trevor Bauer (2-3, 4.20 ERA) takes the hill against six-time All-Star Justin Verlander at 7:15 p.m.
Cleveland will honor 11-time Gold Glove winner Omar Vizquel prior to first pitch Saturday, as the former shortstop will be inducted into the Indians Hall of Fame.
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at email@example.com.
1. Kipnis hasn't hit all season (and really his 2013 looks better only because of his hot June last year- in truth, he doesn't look like a difference-maker/cornerstone, more of a complementary piece).
2. Brantley and Chisenhall are your two best hitters on the season- they should be hitting back-ups.
3. Even if you want to split the two aforementioned players up, Kipnis is NOT the guy you do it with. He doesn't hit lefties as well as Brantley has in his career, nor as well as Chisenhall has this season. In fact, Kipnis doesn't hit the ball the opposite way as well as Brantley has in his career or the way Chisenhall has this season. Put Santana or Gomes between Brantley and Chisenhall if you really want to split them up, though the way those two are approaching hitting lefties, I'd still let them hit back-to-back. Put Santana or Gomes 5th, then the other 6th.
Kipnis shouldn't be hitting higher than 6th, and I'd put him even in the 7 spot behind Santana and Gomes the way Kipnis has been hitting and the way Santana is starting to hit. Inserting Kipnis into the cleanup spot and separating Brantley and Chisenhall is not helping the offense either. Do you see Detroit doing that with Cabrera, Martinez, AND Martinez, even though the latter Martinez is unproven (arguably mor unproven than Chisenhall, in fact)? No. So why does Francona insist on separating our two best hitters and keep putting Kipnis in the cleanup spot when he's not a cleanup hitter and hasn't hit well all season. Terry really needs to make some changes there in my opinion.
Bottom line, this team isn’t going to be generating any offense with its one-two guys in the lineup sporting .310 and .320 OBA’s followed by Kipnis in the three or four hole slugging .356…it's a recipe for offensive ineptitude at this point.
He can't be trusted in any situation.