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Game One Hundred Twenty-Five: Indians 11, Tigers 8

Box Score
Win Probability Added @ Fangraphs

Highest WPA:

Casey Blake .189
Rafael Betancourt .175
Kenny Lofton .129

Lowest WPA:

Paul Byrd -.250
Jensen Lewis -.098
Rafael Perez -.034

The Indians scored a first inning run off Justin Verlander, but the lead didn't last long. Paul Byrd, who always pitches perched on a tightrope, had to get an extra out thanks to Victor Martinez's misplay of a routine Sean Casey grounder. (The play was scored a hit, which is a joke; if you aren't going to score that an error, there are very few plays that could be considered errors. That is, of course, if the scorer were consistent.) Byrd couldn't get the third out until after Carlos Guillen had crushed a three-run homer. For a team struggling to score more than a couple runs a game, the 3-1 lead might as well have been a 27-run deficit, which would never happen in a baseball game.

Except Justin Verlander happened to have one of his worst outings of the season. Whether it was the humidity (Contrary to recent conditions, it is still August) or just plain bad command, Indian hitters had no problems centering his pitches, scoring four runs in the fourth, and another three in the fifth. By the time Franklin Gutierrez crushed a three-run bomb to left in the fifth, Verlander had already left. The good news, beyond having a five-run lead, was that the Indians would be facing the back end of the bullpen rather than Fernando Rodney or Joel Zumaya. And they needed those cushy relievers later in the game.

Paul Byrd, buoyed by the unexpected offensive outburst, retired the Tigers quickly in the fourth  and fifth innings. But with equal rapidity, he lost it in the sixth, bringing in Rafael Perez an inning earlier than Eric Wedge would have hoped. And Byrd's early exit also played a role in future events. Rafael Betancourt had to clean up a mess in the seventh, and in a two-run game, retired Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Guillen for the first save of the evening.

The second save came in the ninth, after Jensen Lewis couldn't hold a five-run lead. I guess it's a self-fulfilling prophecy that Lewis would have trouble in a situation like that, since he's made so few appearances when the game's been in doubt. Joe Borowski, fresh off a blown save on Sunday, retired Guillen and Rodriguez (in between shots of Eric Wedge trying to look disinterested) to close the game and assure the Indians of leaving Detroit in first place.

Next Up: Westbrook vs. Robertson, 1:05 PM