Covering the Bases: Game 55


Indians 9, Tigers 6

FIRST: Johnny Damon arrived to Comerica Park on Wednesday feeling refreshed after his three-day hiatus while on paternity leave. It was a fun and exciting time to be back with his family — after the birth of twin daughters — but it was also a mental break.

Prior to the game against the Tigers, the 38-year-old Damon was optimistic, but realistic at the same time, while discussing his struggles since donning an Indians uniform.

“You have to understand the game,” Damon said. “You understand some of the better players who have been around have struggled, and that’s what I’ve been going through. I feel like there’s better days ahead, but you just have to keep plugging away and hopefully I have that magical month.”

Tribe fans might start praying to the Baseball Gods that such a month began on Wednesday night.

Damon drew two walks, stole a base, score a run and contributed a key two-run single. Oh, and he also robbed Prince Fielder of a home run with a spectacular catch in left field.

Fielder sent a pitch high and deep to left, and the ball kept carrying. Damon tracked it time, timed his leap and pulled the baseball back in.

“That was a phenomenal play,” said center fielder Michael Brantley, who robbed Alex Rios of a homer earlier this season in Chicago. “I’m screaming, ‘Back! Back!’ He gets back to the wall and I was kind of getting a little scared, because I knew the wall was coming. I didn’t wan to yell, ‘Wall,’ and then he might panic.

“That’s a phenomenal play by him. You’ve got to tip your hat. That’s an awesome play.”

SECOND: Indians starter Jeanmar Gomez collected a win, but he had his offense (nine runs on nine hits for the most runs scored in a road game against Detroit since August 2008) to thank for that. Gomez allowed six runs in five innings for his third rough outing in a row

Over Gomez’s last three starts, the righty has yielded 17 runs in 15 2/3 innings. His season ERA has ballooned to 4.97 from a respectable 3.19 over that stretch.

“He’s had a couple rough ones in a row,” manager Manny Acta said. “But he’s healthy. His stuff is there. It’s just about making adjustments, because teams are scouting you and you’re going to have to change the pattern here or there and change the way you’re pitching at times. I think it’s a learning process for him and he’s going to have to adjust back.”

THIRD: The Indians improved to 5-0 vs. Detroit this season after losing the final 10 games against the Tigers last season. Cleveland has outscored the Tigers 24-14 and out-hit them 41-37. Indians pitchers have posted a 2.80 ERA (14 ER/45 IP). All of this said, no one is making too much of this within the Tribe’s clubhouse.

“They’re battling some injuries right now,” said reliever Vinnie Pestano. “Their rotation is a little different. They had [Doug] Fister out. They’re kind of going through what we went through last year down the stretch in late July and August. But, unfortunately for them, it’s happening a lot earlier than it happened to us.

“So they’ll get those guys back for the home stretch and we’re probably going to see a different Tiger team in the second half. You can’t put too much emphasis on this series, especially when we have 13 more games against these guys.”

HOME: Much has been made of the fact that closer Chris Perez has saved each of the Indians’ five wins over the Tigers this season. But did you know Pestano has turned in a clean eighth inning for a hold in each of those wins, too? Combined, Pestano and Perez have 10 strikeouts in 10 innings with one run allowed.

“It’s very comforting, to me, when we have a lead in the eighth,” Acta said. “I mean, I tip my hat to the other club if they beat us, but I’d put those guys against anybody right now. More times than not, they have come out on top.”

On deck:

Indians (30-25) at Tigers (25-31)
at 1:05 p.m. ET on Thursday at Comerica Park

American League Central
1. White Sox: 31-25
2. Indians: 30-25 (0.5)
3. Tigers: 25-31 (6)
4. Royals: 24-31 (6.5)
5. Twins: 22-34 (9)


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