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Game 97: Indians 3, Tigers 2

Lou Marson + Aaron Cunningham = Magic
Lou Marson + Aaron Cunningham = Magic

A Travis Hafner triple, and Aaron Cunningham delivers in the clutch. How about that?

Ubaldo Jimenez showed up when it counted, shutting out the Tigers through six innings, though it wasn't easy. He allowed at least one base runner in each of his six innings, and often with less than two outs, but he used his splitter to great effect, getting several key strikeouts and keeping a hot offense under wraps. If not for a miscommunication in the outfield, he might have at least started the seventh, but because he had to take another 15 or so pitches, that option was off the table by the time he left the mound.

Doug Fister went seven innings and allowed three runs, but relatively speaking he looked human tonight. Since he arrived in Detroit, the big right-hander has dominated the Indians; his first start against the Indians in a Tigers was curtailed by rain, but he would face the Tribe three more times in 2011, allowing a grand total of 1 run on 12 hits in 23 innings. So the Indians' three runs on nine hits seemed like the flood gates had open, again, relatively speaking. The Indians got on the board in the second after Carlos Santana led off with a double into the right-center gap, and was driven home a couple batters later by a Johnny Damon single. Santana was also involved in the second run of the game, a fourth inning RBI single plating Jason Kipnis.

That's the way the game would stay until the seventh inning. Again, thanks to the outfield miscue, Jimenez was unable to pitch into the seventh, so Joe Smith stepped into the game. He retired the first two batters of the inning in order, then walked Quintin Berry on a blatantly missed call by home plate umpire Marvin Hudson. The next batter was Miguel Cabrera, and almost predictably he launched a game-tying homer over the right-center field fence. It was only the third homer allowed of the season by Smith, and the first since over a month ago.

Doug Fister stayed in the game for the seventh, and after retiring Santana, Travis Hafner hit a line drive the hit off the middle of the left field wall. Both the left and center fielders ran to the base of the wall, and when the ball ricocheted back towards the infield, there was no one there to back the play up. So Travis Hafner, still gimpy from a mid-season knee surgery, legged out a triple. It's not often that a player hits a triple and then gets pinch-run before, but Lou Marson was sent in to do the honors. Because Aaron Cunningham had already been sent in to perform his customary defensive duties, he came to the plate instead of Johnny Damon. This might be Cunningham's last game with the Indians, as the Tribe acquired utility man Brent Lillibridge before the game, and will have to make a 25-man roster move to make for him. So if this was Cunningham's final appearance in an Indians uniform, he went out on a high note, for as Lou Marson started towards the plate, he bunted the ball in fair territory, and Fister couldn't get the ball to the plate in time to get Marson. With that rare squeeze play, the Indians took the lead.

Vinnie Pestano retired the Tigers in the eighth without allowing a run, but seemed to have tweaked something during the inning. Hopefully it's nothing, for he's been as important to the Indians' success as anyone else on the club. Chris Perez retired the Tigers in order, closing the game out while leaving Miguel Cabrera on the on-deck circle.

If a run's going to happen, this was a nice start to it. Jimenez pitched like he was capable of pitching, and the Indians reduced their division deficit to three games, and may pick up a game on the White Sox if the Twins can pull out a victory in Chicago.

Source: FanGraphs