Tigers, Tribe battle 14 innings, Indians drop their third straight, 6-5
Salazar pitches well, but Detroit takes another game away late
CLEVELAND—Fourteen innings wasn’t even enough to sneak a win by the powerhouse of the American League Central.
For the third night in a row, the Indians could not outlast the Detroit Tigers late in a ballgame as they took down the struggling Tribe, 6-5. The victory sends Motown to their 12th straight win, as they have won 15 of their last 16 games.
“They all hurt,” Indians manager Terry Francona said. “But when you go that deep into a game and have to use up your bullpen, it’s a little more fresh five minutes after a game.”
Cleveland (62-51) drops to a season-high six games behind the first place Tigers in the A.L. Central, sending them to their 10th loss over their last 11 meetings against the first place Kitties.
With the game deadlocked at four in the 14th, Fielder connected on what turned out to be the game winning two-run double off reliever Marc Rzepczynski to the gap in left field.
“My job is to come in there and get Prince out,” Rzepczynski said. “I had him 0-2, but I just left a pitch up. If I could go back out there, I probably would throw a fastball in.”
The hit came six innings after the most dramatic moment of the night, as rookie Danny Salazar (1-0, 3.29 ERA) faced Cabrera with a runner on and two outs in the eighth. After giving up just two runs over 7 2/3 innings of work, Cabrera sent the first fastball he saw from Salazar 449 feet to dead center giving the Tigers at the time a 4-3 lead.
“He was throwing about as well as you could,” Francona said. “That would have been his last hitter, but to that point I would have had a hard time justifying having him not pitch. That’s how good I thought he was.”
The 23-year-old Salazar finished the ballgame giving up four runs on seven hits, walking one and striking out 10. His 10 strikeouts were the most by a Tribe rookie since Kaz Tadano punched out 10 back in 2004.
In his first two starts, Salazar has now struck out 17 hitters in his first 13 2/3 big league innings, looking as though he could become a staple in the rotation the rest of the season.
“Besides a couple mistakes, he was tremendous,” Francona said. “I wish I could sit here on a win, but it doesn’t change the fact of how he pitched. He’s worked so hard to get here. The one place in the world where he said he’s the most relaxed is on the mound.”
Despite giving up the homer to Cabrera, Salazar becomes the first pitcher in all of Major League Baseball to strikeout the reigning 2012 American League MVP three times in a game this season.
“He’s a great hitter,” Salazar said. “If you throw outside or inside to him, it doesn’t matter. I wasn’t thinking too much. I got him with my fastball and I tried again, but I left it in the middle. I went out there and gave 100 percent every inning, every pitch and I feel great.”
Detroit got on the board first in the second inning on a RBI single by shortstop Jose Iglesias, to give the Tigers the early 1-0 lead.
After Tigers center fielder Austin Jackson tied the game at two with a solo homer to the home run porch in left, Swisher struck again on another RBI double in the home half of the seventh to give the Indians a 3-2 lead before the blast by Cabrera.
Tying up the game again on a RBI groundout by Gomes in the eighth, Cleveland had one last chance in the bottom of the 14th to send those who remained at Progressive Field home with a win. They could not capitalize as Drew Stubbs struck out to end the ballgame stranding center fielder Michael Bourn on third base.
Offensively, the Indians finished the ballgame just 2-for-15 with runners in scoring position and have hit a dismal .154 (4-for-26) in the first three games of the series. After Tigers starter Doug Fister (10-5, 3.50 ERA) quieted Tribe bats to just two runs on seven hits in six innings, the team was silenced by the Detroit bullpen.
The Wahoo’s connected on three hits over the final five innings, thanks in large part to Tigers reliever Jeremy Bonderman (2-3, 4.57 ERA). Making his first appearance with Detroit since Oct. 1, 2010, the right-hander shut down the Tribe offense for one hit over three innings in extras.
“In games like this especially against a team like that, you have to execute just about everywhere and we left some runs out there,” Francona said. “It certainly was not a lack of effort.”
“We’re just as good as them, it’s just a couple breaks here and there,” Rzepczynski said. “You got to play real good against these guys as best you can. At the end of the day we take back two pitches we win that game.”
Follow Jim on Twitter @JBirdman27 or he can be reached via email at email@example.com.