Rafael Betancourt .261
Josh Barfield .154
Casey Blake .132
Andy Marte -.064
The Cobra -.061
Jason Michaels -.042*
*Remember, WPA ignores defense.
In a world where baseball takes place west of the Hudson, where the AL East was not the best division in baseball, and where first place was on the line, one Cobra propelled his team into first place...
The Indians scored yet again in the first inning thanks to home runs by Casey Blake and Victor Martinez. But the play of the game came not on offense, but defense. With the score 2-1 in the second, Craig Monroe hit a Paul Byrd puffball deep to left, destined for the Tigers' bullpen. Jason Michaels brought it back with a perfectly-timed jump, and Byrd got out of the inning with the lead. Michaels' grab saved three runs.
Byrd was incredibly accurate, throwing 60 of his 73 pitches for strikes. Yes, the Tigers as a team love swinging early in the count. Yes, he gave up nine hits, and several hard hit balls, including the Michaels gem. But the lineup he faced was the league's most productive, and he pitched long enough so that no one else had to bridge the gap between him and Rafael Betancourt.
Travis Hafner, who's been mired in an extended slump (.203/.394/.392 in May), gave the Indians a much-needed insurance run by tripling home Casey Blake in the ninth inning. That the triple was a blast to deep left-center was a nice sign, but giving Joe Borowski a three-run cushion was a more immediate boon.
Overall, a very satisfying win. The Indians take over first place, but with six more games against the Tigers over the next ten days, there could be 3-4 more division lead changes over the next fortnight.
Next Up: Sabathia vs. Verlander, 3:55 PM. Buckle up, this one's going to be fun.