Offense overcomes latest bullpen meltdown in 9-6 win
Tribe attempts to salvage series with late-inning rally against Detroit
Cleveland, OH — The Cleveland bullpen continued a disturbing trend, as Vinnie Pestano allowed a game-tying, three-run homer to Torii Hunter in the top of eighth, but the Indians came back with three runs of their own to beat the Detroit Tigers 9-6.
Michael Brantley hit a two-run homer, his second of the game, in the eighth inning off Al Alburquerqueas Cleveland ended a seven-game losing streak against Detroit and pulled within 2.5 games of the Tigers in the American League Central.
"We've got that never-say-die attitude," first baseman Nick Swisher said. "The good teams pick each other up, and the bad teams pick each other apart."
The Indians took an early lead against the Tigers, scoring five runs in the first two innings against Detroit starter Doug Fister. In the bottom of the first, Jason Kipnis and Swisher walked with two outs and scored on a double to deep left by Brantley. Carlos Santana followed with a line-drive homer to right-center, his 11th of the season, to put the Tribe up 4-1.
In the second, third baseman Lonnie Chisenhall golfed a solo shot off the foul pole in right to extend the Indians lead to 5-1. Chisenhall continued his solid hitting since returning from Triple-A Columbus, and is hitting .375 so far in July. Brantley hit another solo homer in the sixth to make the score 6-1.
Corey Kluber was dynamite in six and one-third innings of work, but failed to get the win. He allowed two earned runs on five hits and three walks while matching a career-high with 10 strikeouts.
Down five runs and unable to do much against Kluber, the Tigers blasted their way back into the game by scoring twice in the seventh off Joe Smith and tying it in the eighth.
"That one would have been a tough one to go home today if we had lost," Indians manager Terry Francona said.
With runners on first and third and two outs, Hunter, 0-for-7 with three strikeouts in his career against Pestano, hit a 2-1 pitch onto the patio in left for a no-doubt three-run homer. Pestano allowed Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder to reach via singles before Cody Allen was summoned to finish the eighth.
The Indians came back with a vengeance in the bottom half of the eighth against Alburquerque, who walked Swisher to lead off the inning. Brantley followed with his second homer of the game, a two-run shot, to put the Tribe up for good.
"The boys came out and punched back," Pestano said. "They didn't hang their heads. It's the personality we've got. It's the closeness of this group."
The Indians will try to earn a split in the four-game series against the Tigers in a 7:05 p.m. contest on Monday. Scott Kazmir (4-4, 4.86) will take the mound for the home team against Cy Young candidateMax Scherzer (13-0, 3.09), who has already beat the Indians twice this season. Scherzer will try to become the first pitcher to start a season 14-0 since Roger Clemens in 1986.
Notes: Miguel Cabrera now has 90 RBI this season, tied for the seventh-most by an AL player before the All-Star break… Cabrera now has 31 HR against the Indians, the most against any opponent in his career.
Nathan Kemp graduated from The University of Akron in 2012 with a bachelor's degree in English. He plans to pursue a graduate degree through NEOMFA in the fall. Follow him on Twitter @NathanCKemp.
This bull pen has had meltdowns up and down. It hasn't been the reliable strength many expected. In fact there has been a number of times the offense has delivered and picked them up just as they did yesterday.
There have been a lot of posts prior to this season that insisted we dump the Rage and let Vinny take on closing. I never jumped on that bandwagon. We have enjoyed a lengthy run were the back end - Smith, Pestano & Perez - have been very good.
Chicago went through this with Matt Thorton - and paid a price. Sometimes the thing to do when finding a dynamic 8th inning setup man the best thing to do is...nothing. Let them be a dynamic 8th inning setup man.
Our pitching performance has been erratic. Period. For stretches the starters have been excellent....and for others not. Shaw was a savior when others in the middle absolutely stunk - now he is unreliable. Haggs has never shown real confidence this entire year & Hill should have been shipped out long ago...but the lefty matchups are so dicey he's been given a third and fourth chance (with some success lately).
We SHOULD BE THREE GAMES UNDER .5OO - given this bull pens struggles. I credit Tito and the offense for still being relevant as we are.
AS to Pestano directly. He clearly wasn't fully healed with the shoulder issues and got pressed into closing - that is my view - and Smith's struggles are as much testament to the consequences of screwing with roles when injuries and the early/middle relief implodes.
All things being equal - we are pressing Detroit and clearly the better ball club than those chasing us - even the Royals (a fav of the puditocracy from pre-season on).
As it turns out Mcalister AND Kluber's advances have made up for the disappointing showings by both Carasco & Bauer.
And still ...despite a very sub-par Pen given what was expected - we are very much alive for BOTH a division & wild card run.
I am satisfied. This is a better than expected (.500 in view months ago) ball club. Excellent D. Solid (if streaky) offense - I expect this club to score over 800 this year - a remarkable improvement over the crap we have lived with.
Pitching - including the pen - is still a work in progress. I would be shocked if this front office took a major risk on the open market given the progress made - and the potential that exists.
Personally, I'd take him out of the set-up role for now. Unfortunately, Joe Smith isn't doing much better. I would not be opposed to trading him, an idea that has bandied about this season. I don't know if I'd go with Allen in the 8th at this point and play match-ups in the seventh if the starters can't get through seven- not sure.
Certainly, though, the bullpen has to turn this around- it IS the one strength we've had over the Tigers, and can have again, that would keep us in the hunt all season, if not perhaps win the division, especially if the starters can do as well or even a bit better than they have so far. The bullpen cost us two games in KC, nearly cost us another one in KC, and nearly cost the game Sunday against the Tigers. I certainly agree with those who think the bullpen needs to be addressed in the trade market, rather than the starting rotation. Perhaps Myers could help - maybe.
Oh, and I read an article today (http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/fantasy-roto-arcade/closing-time-running-rajai-davis-kind-word-justin-141225410.html) that said that Brewers' ace Yovani Gallardo's velocity has been declining for the past TWO seasons, and his LD% is ~25%. In my opinion, he would be a worst acquisition than Jimenez. I wouldn't trade Salazar and Naquin for him, let alone ANY package with Lindor or even Lindor straight up.