Covering the Bases: Game 43
Indians 4, Tigers 2
FIRST: The Indians can say all they want that this isn’t a big series, but that hasn’t stopped it from feeling bigger than a typical May matchup. The Tribe has taken the first two games of this three-game set against the Tigers, and things are starting to take on a more legit feel around here.
“We’re starting to play Wahoo Baseball,” closer Chris Perez said.
On this date last year, the Indians were 30-15 with a seven-game lead atop the American League Central. Right now, Cleveland is 25-18 with a 3 1/2-game lead atop the division. The lead isn’t as wide, and Detroit’s in third place, but this year I’m buying more into the Indians’ chances than last year.
A lof of that belief has to do with what manager Manny Acta has been pointing out for weeks. Cleveland has had subpar starts from Justin Masterson and Ubaldo Jimenez, along with plenty of question marks up and down the lineup, and the team has still found a way to find first place.
That’s a good sign, folks.
“We know it’s still early,” Perez said. “Obviously, this time last year we had an even bigger lead and we all know what happened. So I don’t think anybody is getting ahead of themselves.”
SECOND: Tonight’s tip o’ the cap goes to the Tribe’s bullpen. The Tigers loaded the bases in each of the seventh and eighth innings and Cleveland found a way to escape unscathe. Sidearmer Joe Smith did so in the seventh by inducing a groundout off the bat of Miguel Cabrera.
For those who want to point out the 3-0 pitch that was called a strike, well, manager Manny Acta said he felt it was indeed a strike upon viewing the replay. So, there’s that. Either way, Cabrera still had a hitter’s count (3-1) and Smith still got the groundout.
The game ball goes to Vinnie Pestano, though. He faced a bases-loaded jam with no outs in the eighth. He struck out Jhonny Peralta, induced a fielder’s choice groundout (at home plate, no less) from Ramon Santiago and then struck out Alex Avila to end the inning Houdini style.
THIRD: How on earth did Quintin Berry wind up with a bunt double in the sixth inning? Let’s have second baseman Jason Kipnis explain things from his perspective. He swung and missed trying to glove the ball on a hop behind first baseman Casey Kotchman, then fell down and Berry hauled it into second.
“That was just a messed up play,” Kipnis said. “First, I was watching Kotchman to see if he could get it. Then I saw it going over him. Then I didn’t know if I could catch it, so I stutter stepped and then — I knew he was a fast runner — so the only thing I could go for was a quick scoop and try to beat him to the bag and I just didn’t get down all the way and missed the ball.
“And then I slipped trying to go back for the ball and then he runs into me. Yeah, it was embarrassing, because it was just a dumb play and I probably could’ve caught the ball and saved us all that trouble.”
Detroit scored two in the inning after that debacle, and the subsequent misplay in right field by Shin-Soo Choo. No harm done, though. Travis Hafner clubbed a two-run homer to tie things up and the Tribe rallied for another two runs in the eighth.
HOME: Righty Zach McAllister gave Cleveland another solid effort in place of the injured Josh Tomlin. E.Z. Mac went 6 1/3 innings with two runs allowed (on a pair of non-error miscues), eight hits surrendered, no walks and three strikeouts. He was economical with his pitches (89-66) and put the Indians in a solid position once again.
Tomlin is slated to throw a 50-pitch simulated game on Thursday morning and is not expected to need a Minor League rehab assignment before being activated from the DL. McAllister, meanwhile, said he has reached a point where he feels he belongs in the big leagues now, gaining more comfort with each outing he makes.
“Yeah, I feel like that,” said McAllister, who is 1-1 with a 3.96 ERA in four starts. “I’m just trying to make the most of my opportunity. You never know when you’ll be sent down, so I’m trying to do all I can to make the decision hard for them.”
Gotta like that attitude.
Tigers (20-23) at Indians (25-18)
at 12:05 p.m. ET on Thursday at Progressive Field