The Tigers defeated the Indians 7-5 at Comerica Park on Thursday afternoon to split the rain-shortened series a game apiece. Today's contest was billed as a top pitching matchup between the Tribe's young flamethrower Danny Salazar and Detroit's ace Justin Verlander. In the end, neither pitcher lasted more than 5 innings and both men were far from their best.
Salazar started the game in brilliant style, pitching very economically and making short work of the Tigers lineup. Verlander however struggled from the beginning, as the Tribe did a great job of driving up his pitch-count. Despite making Verlander sweat, he still managed to record the necessary outs and the Indians failed to take their chances.
That was until the top of the fourth inning, when a David Murphy bloop hit dropped under the glove of Detroit's Rajai Davis, scoring Asdrubal Cabrera to put the Tribe on top 1-0. The Tigers would tie the score at 1-1 in the bottom of the fourth on an Austin Jackson sac-fly. Then in the top of the fifth inning, the Indians finally made Verlander pay; with the bases loaded Michael Brantley singled to score Michael Bourn and Mikes Aviles to put Cleveland up 3-1. It was a clutch moment by Brantley, as he continues to hit well with runners in scoring position just like he did in 2013.
But the Indians' lead wouldn't last for long, as the game evolved into a back-and-forth struggle from the bottom of the fifth inning onward: Salazar walked the first two batters he faced before Ian Kinsler smashed a home run to edge Detroit ahead 4-3. Austin Jackson added another sac-fly to pad the Tigers lead to 5-3 before the inning was over. In the bottom of the sixth Detroit tacked on another run, as Kinsler collected his 4th RBI when he singled Davis home to make it 6-3. The Indians answered right back in the top of the seventh when Brantley clubbed a two-run shot to bring the score back to 6-5 but that was as close as the Tribe would get. Detroit added a valuable insurance run in the bottom of the eighth when Davis singled off Scott Atchison to make it 7-5. Joe Nathan proceeded to close things out by retiring the Indians in order to end the game.
It was a day of mixed feelings for the Tribe. Danny Salazar was ultimately disappointing again, despite starting brightly. The right-hander was pulled after 4.2 innings, having surrendered 5 runs on 6 hits, to go along with 3 walks and 3 strikeouts. It's clear Salazar is having some teething problems in his second year.
The top of our lineup exhibited more struggles. Nick Swisher and Carlos Santana are mired in deep slumps and didn't look like escaping today: both men went 0-4 with a walk each. Jason Kipnis was ejected from the game in the third inning and Yan Gomes went 0-4 with 2 strikeouts, stranding 3 men on base.
There were a couple of positives however. As previously mentioned, Michael Brantley brought his A-game this afternoon, recording 2 hits and 4 RBI, including that seventh inning homer. The most pleasant surprise of the day came in the shape of Lonnie Chisenhall who simply could not be stopped. Chiz was unbeatable, going 4-4 with 4 singles, the first 4-hit game of his career. He's now batting .522 on the year and looks like he really wants his everyday job back. Go Lonnie, we exalt you!
Today's loss drops the Indians back to a sub-.500 record, as they now sit at 7-8. Tomorrow the Indians return home to face the Blue Jays at 7:05 ET and Justin Masterson will be on the mound looking for his first win of the season.
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