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Game Fifty-Two: Indians 11, Tigers 5

Box Score
Win Probability Added @ Fangraphs

Highest WPA:

Travis Hafner .338
Grady Sizemore .155
Victor Martinez .119

Lowest WPA:

CC Sabathia -.122
David Dellucci -.067
Trot Nixon -.066

Again, the difference in the game was the difference in innings logged by the two starters. CC Sabathia gave up 5 runs and 10 hits, but pitched into the eighth, allowing the Indians to use just one of their trusted relievers. Justin Verlander exited the game after facing a couple batters in the sixth, setting the stage for the Indians to blow the game open in the bottom of the eighth. If you have a thin bullpen, you can play through it if your starters can consistently go six or more innings per start. Heck, this is true of the vast majority of teams in today's MLB; the sixth and seventh guys in the bullpen are usually pitchers you don't want anywhere near a close game, but you'll have to use them if your starters can't provide consistent length.

Of course, having an offense that can turn a rather pedestrian CC Sabathia start into a blowout win helps:

"Our offense definitely helps a pitcher," Sabathia said. "You feel that if you keep it close, they'll do what they did tonight."

The Indians wore down Verlander as a good running football team wears down a defense. Verlander didn't have his typical command, and while the Indians didn't take advantage of most of their early opportunities, they finally broke through in the fifth. The Indians' top three got on base 11 times in the game; especially encouraging was Travis Hafner's performance. It wasn't really Pronk's first inning homer that got my attention, it was the way he took pitches; before, he seemed unsure whether to swing at borderline pitches. Last night, he seemed to know whether a pitch would be in the strike zone, and while he's still "missing" some hittable pitches, that he's seeing the ball better is a very good sign.

Grady Sizemore made the Indians' defensive play of the season last night, catching a line drive with his back to home plate in the second inning. The only thing that topped that play was some other athletic performance against some other Detroit professional team.

The Indians are now 3.5 games up on Detroit. The last time they had this big a lead was the end of the 2001 season.

Next Up: Carmona vs. Maroth, 7:05 PM