Covering the Bases: Game 76

140622DetroitFinal: Tigers 10, Indians 4

FIRST: Cleveland tried to pick its poison all weekend and wound up dying with every drop.

Detroit doesn’t boast the Miguel Cabrera-Prince Fielder slugging combo these days, but that hasn’t mattered. The heart of the Tigers’ order is as healthy as ever, especially of late with Miggy doing Miggy things and the Martinez men (Victor and J.D.) swinging some of the hottest bats in baseball.

“We’ve gotten nicked up going through that middle quite a few times in this series,” Indians manager Terry Francona said.

It’s worth noting that Francona made that statement before Sunday’s game. then, Cabrera went out and launched a first-inning home run off Josh Tomlin and added two more RBIs before the day was done. J.D. Martinez helped power a seven-run outburst in the fifth (one aided by two errors) with a two-run single to center.

During the three-game brooming of the Tribe, Detroit’s three-four-five hitters (Cabrera, V-Mart and JD-Mart) combined to hit .351 (13-for-37) with three doubles, four home runs, four walks, 11 runs scored and 13 RBIs. That’s all. Of course, complicating matters was the fact that the Tigers’ Nos. 1-2 hitters went a combined 8-for-28 with three extra-base hits and three walks in the series, too.

“The middle of their order is unbelievable,” said Tomlin, who surrendered eight runs (five earned) in four-plus innings. “You’ve got to keep the first two guys in their lineup off base and hope to face those guys with nobody on.”

SECOND: Consider this series a big of payback for the Tigers, who spoiled the fact that Cleveland enjoyed a three-game showing of 100,280 fans (the most for a three-game weekend set for the Tribe since Aug. 26-28, 2011). Detroit swept the Indians after being swept by the Tribe in the clubs’ last clash in Cleveland on May 19-21.

In that three-game series, the Indians hit .347 as a team, went 15-for-42 with runners in scoring position and churned out 22 runs on 43 hits, including 16 for extra bases. This series, the Tribe hit .281, but went 5-for-24 with RISP and scored 12 runs on 32 hits (nine XBH). The Indians posted a 5.46 ERA this series compared to a 3.94 mark in the set in May.

Making three errors on Sunday certainly didn’t help matters for Cleveland.

“They just blew it open and we helped them,” Francona said. “They don’t need any help.”

“They’re a good team,” Tomlin said. “We’re capable of beating them. We just didn’t this series. That’s how baseball goes. We swept them the first one they came here. Now, they sweep us coming here again. When we face them again, we’ve got to do a better job against them. That starts out on the mound, limiting that damage.”

THIRD: Three hitters who have hurt the Tribe of late are David Murphy (in 1-for-30 spell), Nick Swisher (5-for-37 since coming off the disabled list) and Jason Kipnis (3-for-26 on the homestand). Talk about a well-time off-day for the team on Monday.

“So excited about this day off,” said Kipnis, who now has an uncharacteristic .337 slugging percentage through 50 games played. “I could use it more than anybody else. We’ve played a lot of games in a row, though. We battled the first two games, didn’t play that well today. … Some guys are tired mentally and physically, so we’re ready for a day off.”

Of the three, Swisher’s showing is part of a season-long funk. He’s now sporting a .194/.282/.320 slash line for Cleveland through 58 games.

Throughout Carlos Santana’s offensive woes early on this season, you could at least point to the fact that he was getting on base via walks. His OPS was still respectable, even though his batting average was below .200. The hope was that, eventually, the negative trends would correct themselves and catch up with the on-base ability. Over the past few weeks, Santana has done just that.

The same theory should apply to Swisher, whose signature throughout his career is consistent on-base production. That is why his slump this year has been troubling, especially so since his return from the DL. In his past 37 at-bats, Swisher has 18 strikeouts and no walks. In the series against the Tigers, he went 2-for-12 with eight strikeouts. The Indians need much more from the man originally signed to be the cleanup hitter.

HOME: From the Department of Positivity, Michael Brantley bounced back from an 0-for-5 on Saturday (only his second 0-for-5 within his All-Star-worthy season) with a 3-for-5 showing on Sunday. Brantley had two doubles and three RBIs in the losing cause for Cleveland.

Santana — now batting .202, for those obsessed with batting average — collected a single in four at-bats. Over his past 20 games, Santana has hit .333 (23-for-69) with six homers, four doubles, 13 runs, 16 RBIs and 16 walks for the Indians. Entering the day, his 1.114 OPS in June ranked second to only Mike Trout (1.188) in the American League.

Brantley, who returned from a mild concussion with a pinch-hit appearance Friday and a start Saturday, has hit .391 (27-for-69) in June. For the month, the left fielder has two homers, seven doubles, 10 RBIs and 15 runs scored in 18 games. Entering the day, Brantley and Detroit’s Cabrera were tied for the AL lead with 16 go-ahead RBIs this season.

NOTE: I will not be in Arizona for Cleveland’s upcoming two-game series against the D-backs. I will resume the beat duties for the second two legs of the trip (Seattle and Los Angeles). In the meantime, keep checking Indians.com for updates.

Indians (37-39) at D-backs (32-47)
at 9:40  p.m. ET  Tuesday at Chase Field

–JB

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